Saturday, April 13, 2013

PAX East 2013: The Swapper




Amid the multitude of games in the Indie Megabooth, we came across Facepalm Games' puzzle adventure title The Swapper.  A PAX 10 recipient, the game has already received quite a bit of pedigree from its peers, and it looked to be in top form at PAX East, as well.  We got to speak with Olli Harjola, the man behind most of Facepalm Games, and Narrative Designer Tom Jubert to learn more about the game and the mystery that surrounds it.

In The Swapper, you enter a seemingly derelict space station which houses a unique piece of machinery called the Swapper.  The Swapper allows its user to create a complete clone of its user within range of its rays, and people can even swap between the clone and its creator with relative ease.  The space station is quiet and ominous, and so you are tasked to venture through its corridors and discover more about the station, the Swapper, and the many people and events surrounding both.

Upon close inspection, you might notice that the graphics look exceedingly realistic, and that is because everything is real.  The models and backgrounds are all created from clay models and everyday materials in order to detail the world, and the atmospheric lighting casts realistically among the imported objects.  It is this artstyle that helps lend The Swapper a unique and highly-detailed feel, one that makes the mysterious locations all the more real and yet so unreal.  The quiet landscape and ambient soundtrack cement the game's style and keeps you aware of the abandoned station and the situation you have entered.

The game is very much a puzzle adventure with an open-world twist.  In the demo, most of what I did was in a linear pathway, but Harjola told me that the game would be more open so as to allow people to move around the station at their own pace and not end up at a dead end in the adventure.  As you progress, you obtain more upgrades to the Swapper, allowing you to transfer yourself between your clones.  You will need to manipulate your clones' positions in order to move switches, land on platforms and buttons, or take the brunt of a lethal collision.  However, there are times when there are lights which prevent clone creation or even the ability to swap with clones.  This is when the game's puzzles really start to get involved.  Throughout the adventure, you may also find a collection of logs that present the story to you through the station's occupants, but from our interview, we found more explicit storytelling will also take part in the midst of the game.

The Swapper was a fun and atmospheric experience that I am enthusiastic to see reach its release.  It is expected to come out on Steam in the coming months.

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