The core mechanic of The Swapper is a gun that creates clones of the player, allowing one to transfer his or her consciousness into any of the clones at will. It’s an idea hinted at and sneakily hammered home by ship logs and the hive-minded alien intelligence you encounter across the game. Slowly, it begins to dawn on you that every clone created isn’t just tabula rasa on legs, but a fully formed human being, who may or may not have its own consciousness and knowledge of your goals. Throughout the game, advancement is contingent on sending hundreds, if not thousands, of these clones to harsh, ignominious, bone-crunching death to solve its puzzles, with zero caution thrown to the wind, thus rendering even using the gun an act of cruelty and horror.
As a gameplay mechanic, it’s a fine idea that’s been floating around the headspace of many developers over the years (even the last Mario platformer on the WiiU had a variant on this), and one so simple to craft a game on top of, that you may wonder why no one thought of it before. It makes the fact that the developer is called Facepalm Games feel like an industry-shaming joke. As a piece of the overarching story, however, it’s a factor that allows The Swapper to transcend the sci-fi smorgasbord of ideas that fuel it into something greater, which would be the case even if the puzzles weren’t as frustratingly diabolical as they are.