The Swapper Review
Today we review the game, that asks us the question, what makes us, ‘us’? what is a mind? Does a clone have a soul? and leaves a lasting impact through it.
In the beginning you are thrown into the game, without any knowledge of who you are and where you are? You have no choice to move forward and explore this place you are in, and thus begins your quest, that has you asking the ramification of your actions and wondering the fundamentals of ‘being’. What is a mind? Does a clone have a soul? These are some of the questions that arise while playing this beautiful and atmospheric game. A 2d puzzle solving game in which the isolation, is greatly felt and you would do anything for some company. You might even create clones of yourself but as you will do that, you will realize the price you are paying each time you create a clone.
From the get go you are given access to a gun, which does only two things. First it creates clones of whoever is holding the gun, and second it transfers your consciousness into that clone. This is how get through the game, by creating clones and solving puzzles. While the puzzles start out very simple, just spawn the clone in an inaccessible place and swap into it, they evolve very quickly into puzzles that would have you scratching you head, and planning what to do before even taking the first step.
The gun lets you create four clones at a time, and all of them move the same ways you do. Move to the right, and your clones do the same. Jump and they jump. They exist like this until you touch them, absorbing them into the whole that is “you,” or they die. They’re the mainstay of your interactions with the game: you’ll use them to push blocks, stand on buttons and do whatever is necessary to unearth the mystery of your surroundings. In the process, however, you’re going to kill them repeatedly. At times, it’ll be accidental. At times, you’ll fling them knowingly off a ledge to get what you want. Crunch. Thud. Crack. But there’s nothing wrong with that, right? After all, they’re just empty vessels, containers your mind has oh-so-recently vacated – wait.
The story builds around you in ways of audio conversations and text entries you find throughout the game, and it also explores whether or not any soul swapping is actually taking place–or if the soul even exists at all. It’s a very philosophical tale that asks questions of belief, skepticism, science, and materialism, and it doesn’t talk down to its audience when doing so.
Now lets talk about the beauty of the game. It’s a wonder to behold, the environment, the attention to detail and overall feel of the game is just amazing. From the moment you land on the spaceship, and walk through the backdrop of one the most elegantly and gracefully designed levels, you are not just bombarded with details of how beautiful the surroundings are, but are also relayed the information that someone lived and worked here. From the mines to the living quarters, you can sense the that someone lived here once, which coincidentally makes you ask the question, ‘Where is everybody? What happened here?”
The atmosphere, and the idea of clones, immediately reminded me of the 2009 movie Moon, starring Sam Rockwell as an astronaut, living and working alone on a three-year stint on the Moon, collecting resources. As his three-year-stint is about to end, he has an encounter with his clone. It asks the same questions as the game. The morality of clones, and what is life? what makes an individual? These are all very haunting question within both the film and now this game.
The puzzles range from very easy to very hard, from the beginning to near the end, respectively. In the beginning you might simply the place your clone in the right place to move forward but, things get complicated by the existence of colored lights scattered throughout the world. Areas covered in blue light prevent clone creation (though clones can walk into the light without issue), while red light blocks the swapper’s beam, preventing you from jumping between clones. Purple light predictably has both downsides, making it a real pain to deal with. While there is no satisfying narrative explanation for why things work this way, these lights are one of your primary concerns in most puzzles in the game, and working around them is where you find most of the challenge.
The Swapper tempts with ingenious puzzles, and a fully realized science-fiction world, and made me ask questions about mortality and morality that few video games have ever dared to explore, and that is where the genius and the uniqueness of this game really lies, it’s brilliant story and narrative. Even though it is relatively short, it still leaves us with a satisfied with the journey, and It’s ending will leave you to take a decision that will make you think and contemplate your actions. I literal sat there staring at the screen for quite sometime, wondering which is the right decision, or even if there is one?