SwapQuest is a re-adapted mobile game which consists of a heady mix of both puzzles and role-playing elements that go together like strawberries and cream. The story is set in a peaceful kingdom called Aventana, a realm named after a magical sword which was once used to save its people from a terrifying evil known as the Horde. This threat was secured inside a gem stone locked away under the castle, but with the monstrosities now awakening, the time has come for a new hero and that saviour is you.
You'll assume the role of either Prince Wilbert or Princess Wilma (not of The Flinstones fame, sadly), and your quest is to find the aforementioned sacred sword and thwart the Horde for good. The gameplay is very simple: you swap tiles in a grid to create a path to the finish for your hero, and this can be done using either the touchscreen or good ol' fashioned buttons. We found the latter much easier to work with as the former can be fiddly, but both options are viable depending on your patience levels. Along the way you'll encounter enemies, chests, obstacles, and more, and you'll need to work these into your route. Many actions are executed automatically, so this is a game more about directing your chosen protagonist.
As the game progresses, you're able to pick the path of your hero, with everything from caves through forests, deserts, and marshes being available. Perhaps most interesting is that these represent more than mere palette swaps: the desert, for example, requires you to stop at pools of water to rehydrate yourself, which adds another complication to your route. It's simple stuff, but twists like this help to build a little complexity into the levels.
But it's towards the end where the game shines the brightest, particularly in the sky tower where you're tasked with completing puzzles on each floor to reach the next. These conundrums consist of killing enemies, hitting buttons, and several more complicated headscratchers. This ingenuity is present in the boss fights, too, which each require a different tactic to defeat. For instance, there is a giant octopus, and before you can begin poking his eyes out, you'll need to slay each of his tentacles that are spread out across the grid. These battles help to mix things up.
The big problem with the game is that throughout you'll be chased by a poisonous purple fog, which will kill you if you loiter for too long. This is a lazy way of increasing the pace of the experience, and it ruins the otherwise calm nature of the gameplay. We can accept that the limited complexity makes this a title best suited to short bursts, but the time limits don't add any density to the gameplay – they just destroy the leisurely loop and force you to race through stages rather than take your time.
Still, at least it sounds and looks nice, with tight pixel art design and chirpy music that's infectious if a little repetitive at points.
SwapQuest is a bright and breezy release that's well suited to the PlayStation Vita. We didn't especially appreciate the release's decision to make us rush, but there's an appeal to the simplistic gameplay that will keep you venturing the land of Aventana – especially if you've got a bit of time to kill.