SwapQuest has been on quite a journey to get itself a PlayStation 4 release. Originally launched on mobile platforms in early 2015, the title then made its way to the PlayStation Vita in March 2016, where we praised it for its simple yet enjoyable and addictive gameplay loop. The PlayStation 4 version attempts to build upon that with a new two player local co-op mode, remixed boss fights that offer a tougher challenge, and improved high-resolution graphics – but does this result in a better overall package?
The gameplay itself has been virtually untouched since its handheld release. Once again you will find yourself in a top-down view as you swap tiles within a grid, all while dealing with enemies, obstructions, and opening chests. Slaying monsters results in experience gains while unlocking trunks produces a stream of gems, and both of these odd jobs funnel into the upgrade system. Meanwhile, there are stat upgrades and unlockable skills for the six classes on offer, and your chosen hero can be then further strengthened by the purchasable weapons and armour found at a caravan in-between levels. These too can be enhanced via stat increases, which by the end of the game could result in you feeling a little too overpowered. The upgrade system itself remains fairly basic throughout, but it adds some much needed depth to the five hour adventure.
One complaint we had with the Vita version was the presence of a purple fog that was always on your rear thanks to the nature of the auto-scrolling levels. Death would be the result of it catching up to you, and unfortunately this nuisance is still present a year later.
Fortunately, the mechanic is ditched for boss fights and where the game reaches its peak, the Sky Tower. By no means is the gameplay that precedes it bad in any way, but it really feels like SwapQuest comes into its own during the endgame. A series of floors that bring together every mechanic you’ve learned so far, they task you with a variety of new objectives, such as defeating every enemy, avoiding traps, hitting a succession of buttons, and solving environmental puzzles. It's just a shame that all of this variety is saved until the end of the game.
Another criticism aimed at previous versions was the speed at which characters would move across the tiled grid, which was frustratingly slow. This enhanced version has not addressed the flaw meaning that once again if you manage to build a solid path well in advance of your sprite reaching it, it will take far too long for them to catch up. It slows the gameplay down to a crawl which can turn into tedium and boredom if you’re left waiting for Prince Wilbert or Princess Wilma for too long.
One brand new feature that ships with the PlayStation 4 version is a two player local co-operative mode. Teaming up with a friend on the couch opens up a new way to play SwapQuest as you can combine abilities to produce results that weren’t possible in previous iterations. Unfortunately, however, this mode is restricted to local play due to the lack of online functionality. Buddying up with a partner online would have been the preferred method for us, as we can see the title quickly falling down the pecking order when it comes to couch co-op multiplayer games.
Another new addition for the PS4 edition is improved high resolution graphics. In practice, though, it’s not as impressive as it sounds. The new presentational palette cleans up the original 8-bit style by smoothing out sprites and the environment, but that’s as far as it goes. You can switch between both styles on the fly with a press of the R3 button, so it’s quick and simple to find out which one you prefer and stick to it.
SwapQuest is a fun little title that successfully blurs the lines between RPG and the puzzler Pipe Dream. While it does have some drawbacks, its addictive gameplay remains entertaining throughout, which really comes into its own in the final few hours. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but what SwapQuest can provide you with is an enjoyable distraction on a quiet summer’s day.