Sometimes in gaming you think you have seen everything. And then a game like The Swapper comes along.
When this game was first launched more than a year ago on the PC, the tiny independent developer Facepalm was showered with praise. Now that it has been ported to PlayStation consoles, the coders, artists and musicians who have made The Swapper so special are able to stand up and take a bow once more.
Like many other indie games, from Braid to Journey, The Swapper is based on a rather simple, almost retro, premise that hides great depth, both on a playable and narrative level.
The idea is that you work your way through a dimly lit space station, looking for a way to escape, armed only with a torch. Ingeniously, this torch is also a cloning device which lets you produce a set number of replicas of yourself.
By creating these clones and positioning them in otherwise inaccessible areas, you are able to solve a multitude of puzzles. The clones will help open doors, turn off lights and overcome death.
To make the game even more challenging, you are able to swap your character to one of the clones (hence the name of the game). It forces you to think ahead.
Sometimes you only need to produce one clone; other times you need to produce four. But each level is impeccably designed so that, when you do eventually find a solution to a problem, you slap your face in self-anger at having not spotted the answer and you vow to do better next time.
Throughout all of this, your jaw will drop at the sheer beauty of it all. Although the game is 2D and resembles the early Oddworld games, it is nothing less than stunning. You also have time to take in this beauty because there are no limits and no monsters to hurry you up.
While this suits the patient player, perfect timing and nimble fingers are essential as you progress through each well-designed level and while there is a story – one that proves to be rather emotional in tone – you may find yourself too busy trying to find solutions to truly notice and that is said in a good way.
All of this makes The Swapper a very compelling offering that has lost nothing in its translation to the PlayStation. The visuals can, at times, be too dark but they pulsate energy, so much so that you never become bored. It is, it must be said, an instant classic.