The Swapper (PS4/PS3/Vita): Satisfying space puzzles

August 19, 2014


Players have been enjoying The Swapper on PCfor the previous year, but console fans are just recently getting their first taste of the game on the PS4, PS3 and Vita. The Swapper is a puzzle-action game hybrid, similar in feel to Braid, but with a much darker and more realistic tone set on an abandoned space station. The game does make a few missteps, but the atmosphere, along with some unique and well-thought-out puzzle mechanics, make this a game that anyone even remotely interested in it should play.

Like most good puzzle games, The Swapper has an easy-to-understand mechanic that is used throughout the game in increasingly difficult situations. The main character has a “swapper” device that creates a clone somewhere else on the game screen, as long as the clone placement is within the character’s sight line. The clone moves with the player, and by aiming the swapper device at the clone, the player can switch places.

Up to four clones can be created simultaneously, and there are red and blue fields of light that complicate things by restricting the swapping abilities. Clones cannot be placed within the blue light field, and the red light field blocks the swap ability. All of these rules are introduced within the first 15 minutes of gameplay, and these are really the only rules that the game implements.


The game’s setting, a space station, is a connected arena of hallways, transporters, obstacles and rooms, and you are free to roam about as you wish. The various rooms form the puzzles of the game, as each one is a self-contained location with platforms, lights, switches and a glowing orb. The aim of the game is to utilize the swapper device to collect the orb from each room as you move through the space station, gathering information about what has happened to the crew that had occupied it. When enough orbs have been collected, the next obstacle can be lifted and more of the space station becomes available for exploration.

The atmosphere of the game is fantastic, and the story that unfolds largely through found emails and short bursts of text is incredibly thought-provoking and engaging. The game’s journey is worth it just to experience the compelling narrative alone.

The difficulty of the game is a bit uneven. There were many rooms that can be breezed through without any hindrance, especially at the beginning of the game, but also in some later rooms, too. Still, there were a number of rooms that left me stumped for a long period of time. These rooms are frustrating, because you can never be entirely sure if your solution is wrong or just poorly-executed. There are a few places in the game that do require a decent amount of dexterity to complete, and so it’s easy to think that a barely-missed goal could be a problem of skill alone. These few difficult rooms end up padding the playtime of the game beyond the three or so hours it’s otherwise built to last.


The controls of this port also miss the mark a bit. To the credit of PlayStation version Curve Studios, it did a good job translating Facepalm Games’ mouse and keyboard controls of the PC version to work with a controller, but as I played, I still kept wishing I had a mouse to use. The right analog stick of the controller serves to move a reticle around the screen to place clones and swap places, and it is obvious almost immediately that a lot of the action would be more natural with a mouse instead. This shouldn’t stop someone who doesn’t have access to a PC (or who prefers consoles) from playing the game, as the controls definitely do work; they just aren’t as intuitive as you’d hope.

The Swapper‘s cross-buy functionality works seamlessly on all three systems. The Vita version does take a slight graphical hit (though not as big as the PS3 edition) as the entire screen feels a bit blurry, but the aesthetic of the game still shines through. The structure of the game, in fact, does lend itself easily to shorter play sessions that suit a handheld very well. The Vita also implements touchscreen support for the swapping mechanic. I initially thought it may be a better substitute for the mouse control of the PC version than the consoles’ stick controls, but after some experimentation, I found it to be clunky and didn’t use the touch control outside of map navigation.


The Swapper is a short but very engaging title that any puzzle game fan should definitely pick up and try. The atmosphere and storytelling are worth the price of admission alone, and despite some inconsistent puzzle design, the gameplay is definitely compelling enough to be worth experiencing.

Pros: Beautiful aesthetic, engaging narrative, fresh puzzle mechanics
Cons: Inconsistent difficulty, less-than-ideal controls

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.