IndieCade 2011: The Swapper

By Ozzie Mejia, Oct 19, 2011 6:00pm PDT

Facepalm Games' journey to IndieCade 2011 was a long one. The two-man indie development team hails from Helsinki, Finland, and was happy to make the cross-continental trip to Culver City, CA, to show off one of their first titles, a puzzle-platformer called The Swapper. The game melds together two interesting ideas: cloning and mind-swapping. Throughout the game, an unnamed hero journeys through a subterranean facility with a strange ray gun in-hand.

The gun can be pointed anywhere to create clones--up to four at a time. This mechanic helps players to reach faraway places, while using the mind-swapping mechanic to take control of distant clones to explore new areas. As level designer Otto Hantula puts it, "The game mechanics are based around the player's ability to create clones and swap consciousnesses between those different clones."

The first thing I noticed about The Swapper was the artwork has vastly improved over the game's original look seen at this year's Independent Games Festival. The backgrounds looked far more detailed and the player characters looked more fleshed out, an improvement over the lankier model used in previous versions.

Once I started playing through the demo, I found myself entrenched in several advanced platforming situations. Arrows emblazoned in the background directed me towards a high ledge. Since there's no climbing mechanic, the only way to ascend is to use the cloning mechanic. This required me to create clones above me, quickly swap minds with the clone, and repeat the process until I reached the ledge. This proved to be particularly difficult, because the clones were incredibly brittle. Falling from a high point results in a bone-crunching death, so ascending to high ledges requires some quick precision cloning and swapping without missing. It took a while for me to get used to this and, in the end, I went through several lives before I finally made it to the distant ledge.

The Swapper also features advanced puzzle mechanics. The cloning/swapping ray will not work when attempting to shine it through blue and red lighting, sometimes necessitating that players find a different way to reach faraway areas. There was also a sequence that involved pressing a switch that would trigger a distant door, while simultaneously caving in the area directly on top of me. To reach the door, I had to wait until the right point to move and also take advantage of the game's slow motion mechanic. The puzzles I tried out were heavily based on timing and presented an intense challenge.

The Swapper has been in development for several months. Hantula told me about using the GameMaker program for six months before setting off to create his own engine for the game. "GameMaker is kind of limited after you get used to it," said Hantula. "It was a big learning process for me, because I had never made my own gaming engine. It's hard to create good-looking games in GameMaker, unless you want to make pixel art."

A release date has not yet been set for The Swapper. As soon as Facepalm is ready to release it, look for it to arrive on PC.

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