We’re back with our spoiler-free thoughts on The Swapper. What do you think of the game? A transcript of our discussion is below the cut.
JAYLEE: Welcome back to the Push to Smart Games Club. The games club is a monthly feature where we invite you to play a game along with us. This week we are giving our initial impressions of this month’s game which is The Swapper, a puzzle platformer that came from Facepalm Games in 2013. it’s very narrative-light, but we’re going to discuss it. We’re going to talk about it.
STACEY: It’s a different kind of narrative.
JAYLEE: It is a different kind of narrative.
STACEY: It’s not like Deadly Premonition where you like get to point A and then there is cutscene explaining exposition, like everything— it’s a lot more teased out as far as that, to use the buzzword, kind of “environmental storytelling” it seems like.
JAYLEE: And you definitely have to put your own interpretation and spin on things to create a bigger picture. So with that being said, what do you think so far? How far are you?
STACEY: I have no idea how far I am.
STACEY: I’ve played about two hours and that’s with—like the puzzles at first I was like “Oh yeah that’s really interesting” and then I’d just hit a wall.
STACEY: And I’d have to stop and come back, then I’d be like “oh, duh, that’s how that’s solved” and then just hit another wall (laughs). So it’s been kind of slow going, I don’t know exactly where I am. I’ve been kind of exploring the station. I’ve met up with— I don’t know if this is spoiler, like the other— what seems to be the other survivor and she’s been kind of running away.
JAYLEE: Oh, good (laughs). That’s one of those things where there’s no possible way I can ask if you have met them without spoiling them.
STACEY: Like, I’ve met here, I’ve been introduced to the concept of The Watchers even though I’m not sure if that’s going to be what they finally are or if it’s just what the people in the station have been interpreting them to be and they’ll be something else. It’s mostly just kind of wandering around trying to collect orbs and solve puzzles which, some of them are just getting that flow and then it just completely breaks the flow by getting completely stuck (laughs).
JAYLEE: Yeah, there were a couple of solutions later in the game I had to look up, not gonna lie there (laughs).
STACEY: Yeah, the only time I’ve looked something up, and it was really silly, was like, I didn’t get at first that how you would move vertically.
STACEY: And then it’s like, “oh, duh, you make clones of yourself and swap between them all the way up and down (laughs). Which I think is actually the most interesting part of the game so far.
JAYLEE: The cloning mechanic?
STACEY: The cloning mechanic, but using the cloning mechanic to scale.
STACEY: Because it demands that you do it in almost every area because it’s either slightly too high to jump up or slightly too high to jump down, you’ll die. For me that’s been the most harrowing aspect, I guess, because it’s so easy to just forget about it and just get into that groove of like creating your clones and going up. And then, I don’t know about you but I’ve had several moments where I’d use the clones to get down a very large distance and I’ll be walking around the floor and all of a sudden this clone body will just slam on the ground next to me.
STACEY: And it’ll make me jump. It’s just wonderfully creepy, like the sound they make, the animation—
JAYLEE: The kind of crunching sound?
STACEY: Yeah! And it’s just, that to me, and this is going to sound weird, but like the biggest take away from that game is it really speaks to how we navigate game spaces and everything else besides us is expendable. And it kind of draws attention to that in a way that’s uncomfortable.
STACEY: So I think that’s been the most compelling part so far. But I do like it, I’m really interested to learn more about the mystery, umm, I really love the atmosphere. But I have definitely been stuck on some puzzles (laughs).
JAYLEE: Yeah. That was something that I was really surprised by with the game is that, it’s not a horror game really by any stretch of the imagination but it’s so atmospheric and creepy. It’s just a really interesting little game.
STACEY: When we first recorded our intro for this, you of course have played it, I had not, and I was like “So is it like Moon?” (laughs)
STACEY: Because that was the first thing— as soon as you see space and clones my brain goes to moon, and kind of playing it it’s still in the back of my mind. It doesn’t seem to be like it in a lot of ways, but still in some ways— because that films is also not a horror film but there’s something distinctly atmospheric and uncanny about it, especially when he discovers, spoilers, when he discovers his clones out there in the wilderness.
JAYLEE: Yeah. It’s very unsettling.
STACEY: Yeah, it’s very unsettling, and I get that sense a lot here just in those very small moments that would have been nothing in any other game, like the bodies falling, that is just a very simple mechanic and it’s very easy to get in the flow of that but having that clone drop down on you just totally breaks your flow in a way that is unsettling.
JAYLEE: A lot of the visuals of the game are based on claymation.
STACEY: Yeah! Oh, yeah.
JAYLEE: So clay figures and found objects and then they put them in the game, and I think that gives them a very distinct feel, and I love it.
STACEY: Yeah, I totally forgot to write that down in my notes, but yeah it has this very handcrafted feel to it.
STACEY: Like his spaceship looks like it could have been a can with like little plastic legs, err, little metal legs.
JAYLEE: Yeah (laughs).
STACEY: And that adds— in a way it kind of adds that unsettling-ness because there’s a physicality to it. But it definitely does, if nothing else, give it a very unique feel and a kind of sense of space, which is very cool.
JAYLEE: So, one of the reasons I did want to have this game on the Games Club and talk about it is, not really the ethics of the whole clone thing, but when I first started playing it I was like “Oh, I don’t want you guys to die. You’re me… ish.”
STACEY & Jaylee: (laughs)
JAYLEE: Have you had anything like that, or—
STACEY: No. It kind of, with the exception of where we walk around and all of a sudden clone body just slams to the ground, but it’s very easy to get into that kind of zen game space and that flow. Like, “okay, I need to do X,Y,Z to get to point… orb” (laughs).
JAYLEE: Yeah (laughs).
STACEY: For me it’s very easy to look past that except for those few moments, like I keep coming back to the body dropping to the ground. Like, that’s where I think it’s strength is and it takes advantage of this fact. At least for me it’s so easy to just block them out and then all of a sudden it’s like “whoa” just a jarring—
JAYLEE: It just comes crashing down.
STACEY: Yeah. Maybe this isn’t… Maybe I should be thinking about this a little more.
STACEY & JAYLEE: (laughs)
JAYLEE: I mean, just from a first impressions standpoint, I love the visuals of the game, I think it has a really great soundtrack and the atmosphere is great.
JAYLEE: And so, I just… It’s not like a Deadly Premonition experience but it was definitely a— it’s just a very solid game.
STACEY: It’s a lot more tightly coiled, and a lot more polished than Deadly Premonition, which, part of the experience of Deadly Premonition is it’s just out there, in all of it’s disheveled mess glory and you have to sift through it to understand what’s going on.
STACEY: And then once you get to that end it recontextualizes the mess where as this seems a lot less, there’s a lot less fat to cut through to get to the point , I guess? (laughs)
JAYLEE: So thank you for joining us for our initial impressions on The Swapper, join us back in a couple of weeks where we will talk about the game in its entirety including how it ties up at the end and some of the cool things it does… there. Being vague as to avoid spoilers, but in the meantime please tell us your initial impressions in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on our latest episodes and Games Club entries.
KINGPIN: It’s a single source. Has the intel been verified?
GERTY: Sam, I can only account for what occurs on the base.