The Swapper review

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May 4, 2013
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The precise moment of realisation in a puzzle game often has a peculiar kind of gravity to it - you can almost feel the tumblers rolling and dropping in your mind. No wonder we talk about pieces falling into place: I don't get it. Clunk. Got it.

If you enjoy that feeling, you'll love The Swapper - although you'll have to truly earn those instances of airy satisfaction as you pick over a series of ingenious, sometimes maddening challenges. You'll also have to use your victories to keep you warm through the chill of this fiercely atmospheric game - a tale of gloomy derelict space hulks and morally ambiguous technology that is told to the beat of a hundred, a thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand deaths.

This is serious sci-fi, concerned not so much with aliens and gadgetry, but the effects these things have on the soul. One of the story's fundamental questions, in fact, hinges on what the human soul is - or at least where it's hiding. The probing of neuroscience's MRIs have found no specific place in the brain where your consciousness definitely resides: there's no captain's bridge where there's always somebody on duty, ensuring that the story you tell yourself about your life is continuing uninterrupted. Facepalm's game plays with this idea by giving you the titular Swapper device, which allows you to shift your soul between your own body and a series of disposable clones you can conjure. Your task is to explore - solving puzzles to collect shining orbs that will open a series of doors for you - and to steadily piece the game's wider narrative together.

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