This is it; we’re finally at #1 for my best of 2013 list. For #1 we have a game that came at the last second to deliver a compact experience that was great on all fronts.
#1: The Swapper —
The Swapper was a game that flew under a lot of radars this year. With funding provided by Indie Fund and developed by FacePalm Games, the game was an atmospheric puzzle platformer. After crash landing on an abandoned research station, you discover a device called the swapper which gives you the ability to create clones of yourself and swap control over them.
The entire game looks fantastic and according to the store page, was made out of clay models. Despite the game taking place in a research station, there were a lot of bright colors to help provide some contrast to the standard blues and grays.
Gameplay consisted of solving puzzles using your clones and the ability to swap between them. The puzzle design was one of the best I’ve seen out of the genre, thanks to the mechanics and how the designers continued to expand on the challenges.
The basic mechanics of The Swapper don’t change from the start of the game. You can only have at max four clones on the field and they will mirror your movements. Using that as a blueprint, the puzzle design challenged the player to work within those constraints. Later puzzles restricted your available clones, challenging you to figure out a 3 clone puzzle where 4 clones would have been easy.
The Swapper reminds me of Portal in this type of puzzle philosophy: Offering simple mechanics and rules and bending them to challenge the player. Each puzzle had a logical solution and there were several times where after a quick break, I came back and was able to solve a tricky one.
Another area where The Swapper surprised me was the story. While the cast of characters in the game was small, the game tells a very personal story about identity and the concept of self. The only real downside about the story was that the majority of the exposition was told through text logs which were a little hard to read when you had dark blue text on black backgrounds. The game built up to a surprise ending that there is no way I’m going to spoil here.
As I said at the start, it was a tossup between Zelda and The Swapper for # 1 this year; I really wanted to keep playing both games despite finishing them. And it came down to Nintendo’s traditional game design with a modern twist vs. The Swapper’s unique puzzle design and atmosphere.
But in the end, The Swapper was just such a great package of design and aesthetic that I had to reward it with #1.
And there you go, my favorite games of 2013 and I even managed to finish it before the end of January.