Games are the perfect medium for escapism, transporting us anywhere from the depths of the ocean to the furthest reaches of the universe. The Swapper depicts an unnerving return to the desolate realm of space, as you’re whisked away to the apparently abandoned Theseus Space Station. Using an experimental device, can you escape the dark corridors of this ominous thrill-fest?
You crash land onto an unnamed rock, with no explanation offered. As such, you’re forced to explore your lonely surroundings without guidance at first. This is the tone that the game continues throughout – you’re gradually drip-fed information as you investigate, but the solitude of the setting will keep you on your toes. In space, nobody can hear you scream.
The first thing that you’ll notice when dropped into this dark world are the soft-focused visuals. All of the art assets are constructed from clay models and other everyday materials, and that lends the game a unique feel that sets it apart from the usual jagged and defined environments that our retinas are accustomed to.
This creative approach is often reserved for warm and colourful worlds, but that’s certainly not the case in this macabre escapade. The lighting is expertly handled in order to create murky corridors, while a perpetual mist obscures the environment behind a grainy haze. Facepalm Games has formulated a setting which oozes isolation, harking back to Ridley Scott’s landmark Alien movie.
Oddly enough, such an unsettling environment proves the perfect playground for the puzzle solving as the centre of this experience. Structured much like iconic Metroid titles of old, the game incorporates an experimental device that enables you to create clones of yourself. These can either be controlled, or left to mirror your moves.
Taking command of the clones is based upon a line of sight mechanic, meaning that the title’s puzzles largely revolve around finding the correct order to arrange your doppelgangers in order to access out-of-reach areas. Blue and red fogs are later introduced to hinder your abilities, adding a new layer of challenge for your lonesome astronaut to overcome.
As with so many of Curve Studios’ indie titles, this release employs a cross-buy format in order to allow you to access the title on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Vita. When downscaled to the handheld, the ambience is lost a little, with many of the grainy artifacts lost in translation. It certainly plays well, but it doesn’t deliver quite the same moody experience as on a big screen.
Whichever version you end up playing, you’ll want to use headphones, as uncomfortable melodies and reverberated footsteps really represent a crucial part of the game’s atmosphere. Alongside the edgy background sounds, info-bites scattered around the space station provide context on your surroundings, and serve as collectibles which you’ll need to nab in order to piece together the plot.
Assuming that you opt to expose the narrative on Sony’s next-gen machine, there are a handful of unique features tailor made for the device. For starters, the touchpad acts as a map navigator, allowing you to scroll around your sizeable setting in a similar manner to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, while the light bar actually adds to the cloudy glow of Theseus’ many illuminating trials.
After a successful run on Steam, The Swapper appears to have a made a successful transition to PlayStation platforms. Unrelentingly abstract, this is a ceaselessly creepy title that’s as unnerving as it is ingenious. The cloning mechanic is an endearing ability that’s right at home in the puzzle genre, and marries perfectly with the dismal atmosphere of the Theseus space station.
Fluff up the edge of your seats, as The Swapper is set to switch onto the PS4, PS3, and Vita on 24th June in North America and 25th June in Europe. How will you cope with the loneliness? Let us know in the comments section below.