The Swapper PS4 Review
The Swapper combines elements of puzzle games and the 2D side scrolling open world aesthetics of a Metroidvania game. Me talking about this game in the same breath as the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night may make the game sound exciting, but even with the inclusion of a semi-open world, it doesn’t even come close to matching the quality of the aforementioned examples.
The most praise I can offer this game is in its visuals; they are more or less flawless. There are no graphical glitches, the design of the settings is wonderfully unique and the attention to detail on the developer’s part is staggering. There is also very effective use of textures such as lighting and shadows to add to the overall atmosphere of the game. Though it isn’t a survival horror, there is a heightened sense of urgency throughout that perhaps the player will feel in a much more different way than in the likes of Resident Evil or Silent Hill. The game’s visual concept does draw similarities with Dead Space in it’s character designs, but there are plenty more differences to make it stand out in at least this sense.
One way in which the game doesn’t stand out, however, and the one aspect it should have done to attain the most important points in my opinion, is in its gameplay. Players have to solve puzzles throughout by duplicating the player character and swapping in between the duplicates to perform multiple tasks at the same time. There is also one side quest, which involves finding a series of terminals giving details of the game’s back-story, as well as ten additional hidden terminals throughout the game. Taking into account the size of the in-game world, and the amount of space available to include additional content, I don’t think there is anywhere near enough substance in gameplay compared to what could have potentially been added, and there is hardly any incentive for completing the game’s one side quests unless you happen to be playing it on a PlayStation console; in which case, there are PlayStation trophies to collect for each hidden terminals found.
As a formula long-since perfected, there should have been no issues with the control scheme in any case, and so there aren’t. But it is also interesting to see how the developers have added some interesting gameplay mechanics to the 2D side-scrolling formula.
Due to it’s lack of substance in gameplay, and it’s main focus being put on story (indeed, where there is normally a director and producer listed on most video game Wikipedia pages, there is only a writer on The Swapper’s page), this title can only be made to last two and a half hours tops, which, especially for an open-world game, is unacceptable. Since there was clearly room for so much more to be added, it seemed to me like that much more of an incredibly fleeting experience.
In a time when humanity’s natural resources on Earth have been exhausted, and they have resorted to deep space exploration to keep themselves alive, the story of The Swapper follows a person who lands on the planet Chori V and investigates a derelict ship called the Theseus. But in typical science fiction fashion, he/she ends up finding more than what they bargained for, and the unnamed person resolves to escape the ship with his/her life, and from the watchers; a murderous race of minerals with rudimentary intelligence, who had killed the initial crew of the Theseus. The story is interesting to follow from beginning to middle, but I did feel quite jaded by it. There is a choice for the player to make at the end, but either way, it makes the story seem ultimately pointless. If the player makes one out of the two choices, another character even closes the game with the line “does it really matter anymore?” It makes me hope that there will be a sequel, albeit with major improvements to gameplay, that will elaborate on the game’s mythology. Otherwise, I think the developers may very well have ended up shooting themselves in the foot by making other gamers feel the same way about the story.
Despite the visuals of the game being top-notch in my eyes, and some standout modifications to the 2D side scrolling formula, in terms of overall gameplay, it seems neither evolutionary nor revolutionary. Great Metroidvania games have come and gone, such as Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, and even some of the latest generations have yielded a few, such as the re-vamped Strider and Dust: An Elysian Tale. But It’s fair to me to say that this title doesn’t fall under that category.
Despite a strong first impression, The Swapper is a much worse game than I previously thought. Despite being impressed by its visuals and attention to detail, I hadn’t first realized how short and lacking in substance it was, and I always begrudge video games like that being released in the first place.