Facepalm Games is a tiny independent game developer based in Helsinki, Finland, and at the time of this review they had only made one game, namely The Swapper.
The Swapper is an atmospheric puzzle platformer set in the furthest reaches of space. You use an experimental device able to clone the user and switch control between the clones. The Swapper is a game of exploration of a very personal nature, set in a world as mysterious as the cloning device itself. The game was supported by Indie Fund, featured in the PAX10, holder of numerous awards and accolades, including IndieCade and Indie Game Challenge.
Time spent playing the game by reviewer:
Around 4 hours. By this time, I had completed the game.
€14 / $15 on Steam.
The game takes place in a distant future, on the mostly abandoned Theseus space station and research facility, where research and experiments on strange rock samples from different planets resulted in many human casualties and complete facility evacuation. The player is not directly told of the events leading up to the evacuation but is instead expected to make his/her own conclusions while exploring the station and solving puzzles.
Trapped in the abandoned space station Theseus, you’re left to explore the seemingly empty and dark corridors with nothing but a little device which can be used to clone yourself up to 4 times. The device, while not terribly impressive at first, soon has you traveling vertically, leaving a trail of discarded clones to fall to their death as you transfer your consciousness from one clone to the next in order to get to otherwise impossible to reach locations.
You’ll soon realize that your clones are useful tools needed to help you solve the various puzzles in the game. They will jump when you jump, and move in whatever direction you move in. You are almost always required to sacrifice the clones in order to progress to the next section of the game, and the implications of this are tied beautifully into the story. All the puzzles are based on using these clones, be it to press a button at the right time, or standing in strategic positions to swap to, in order to navigate the room.
Now this may sound easy, and it is at first, presenting problems which only take a minute or two to figure out, but with the introduction of different colored lights, which prevent certain actions (like creating new clones, or transferring your consciousness though the space the light occupies), the game becomes a lot harder, and by the end you could be staring at your screen for quite a while before coming up with a solution.
Some puzzles will be so hard that you may find yourself wondering if the puzzle is even possible to solve at first. This is in large part due to the rarity of puzzles that simply build on the last challenge you just solved, meaning you’ll have to continually think of new ways to use your clones in order to progress.
While this may sound frustrating, it is negated by the fact that when you do finally figure out the solution, and grab the Trigon Orbs needed to unlock the next section of the game, it often leads to moments of incredible satisfaction, which is a rare thing these days.
The soundtrack doesn’t really stand out in any way, but it fits the game well, and enforces the spooky loneliness of the vast space station you’re exploring, and, while it’s not something I’d want to listen to on its own, it does the job well enough to be mentioned.
Overall, this is a game that demands more of its players, and treats them as capable puzzle solvers right from the start. It may not be for everyone, but what the game does, it does incredibly well, and the 4-5 hours gameplay ensures that it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Worth Trying. The game is quite innovative, and definitely worth trying, but unless you’re a hardcore puzzle gamer fan, I’d wait for a discount before checking it out.
Official game trailer: