The Swapper is a somber indie game available on the Wii U through the Nintendo eShop. It starts out with your character leaving a research station on an escape pod (seemingly against their will), and later landing on a space station with no life to be found anywhere (reminding me of one of my personal faves, Super Metroid). As you progress, you come across a tool that allows you to make up to four clones of yourself, and also the ability to “swap” your existence into any of the clones you create. Clones will move along with your character, and if any one of them dies, you can make a new one as long as there aren’t more than four clones running around. Along the way, you must find orbs to power up the station to progress into new areas (these orbs are usually found by completing a puzzle where you must tax your brain and use the cloning tool in an ingenious way). Eventually, you’ll find that you aren’t the only person (or being) at the station…
It’s fun to keep yourself company; unless you are mute, like our protagonist here
Gameplay is pretty straightforward in The Swapper: walk through space station, get progress impeded by a switch that needs orbs to operate, find orbs by figuring out a puzzle using your cloning tool. You’ll go back and forth through areas you have been to before in order to get said orbs (another similarity to Super Metroid). Even though you usually need only a certain amount of orbs to activate machinery, I found I always picked up as many as I could within a given area regardless (because I have OCD).
Controls are simple, though your character walks backwards instead of turning around (you need to click in one of the analog sticks in order to do a quick turn around, which takes getting used to). You can create a clone with the left trigger, and swap to it with the right trigger. One of the greatest aspects of creating a clone is that it slows down time; so if you fall from a great distance, you can create a clone and swap to it before your original body hits the floor in a crumpled heap. You can also use this time manipulation to create clones in the air and rise great distances. These two mechanics filled me with inexplicable joy because it is fun to see your clones get discarded and mangled as you jump from body to body. Your map is shown on the GamePad and keeps a record of all the logs you come across, and it can also be used for offscreen play.
I have a feeling this face is going to eat me
Along your journey in The Swapper, you will meet rocks in the background that talk when you walk past them, which will freak you the hell out the first time it happens. These rocks are called The Watchers, and will say things like “There’s no point apologizing. It’s too late for you now,” just so you can crap your pants. You will find out more about The Watchers as you progress in the game. There is also a lady researcher going around the station who will talk to your mute character and provide you with guidance. You will also come across travel logs from members of the research station (God knows where they all went), which range from item inventory to diary entries like this:
“Dreamed the laser drill down at the Excavation Site was trying to talk me into doing something I didn’t want to do.”
Yup, everything is going great at the old space station.
Nothing but lollipops and rainbows here
Puzzles are the meat and potatoes of The Swapper, and they do not disappoint. You will need to really think in order to figure them out, as a large portion of them require all four clones to solve (especially later on in the game). There are different color lights that will mess things up for you, too: red lights mean you can make clones in that space, but can’t swap to them; blue lights mean you can swap through the lights but can’t create clones there; and purple lights mean you can’t do diddly squat with clones within the area they bathe. Your character (or their clones) can also push and pull crates around, which you can use to activate switches or darken the different colored lights. It’s amazing how many different puzzle combinations the creators came up with with these modifiers, and it makes for a thought-provoking adventure the whole way through.
The Swapper is a very solid puzzle game. It constantly makes you think, the lore is very interesting and told in a minimalist way through logs and rocks, the sound and ambiance is killer, and the music is…kinda non-existent, but pretty when it pops up here and there. Definitely pick it up if you like exploring, backtracking, and watching multiple copies of you fall into various pits. Take a look at all the awards and praise it won from various outlets in the trailer below!
A Swapping Good Time!
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Plot - 8.5/10
Design - 8.5/10
The Swapper will rack your brain and make you disregard life with reckless abandon at the same time. Great puzzles and sound design, as well as an intriguing story and sentient rocks, will make you hungry for what’s next. Some great indie titles are both coming to and already available on the Wii U, and The Swapper definitely fits into the latter.