Mar. 28th, 2014

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Fez (an indie puzzle platformer) was pretty good. I enjoyed playing it. Had I played just that you would have read a nice review about how it was fun, and while my progress eventually hit a wall due to some bugs I would still totally recommend buying it as part of a bundle for $6 and playing it up to that point. Unfortunately for Fez, I played it right before I played a second indie puzzle platformer The Swapper, and Swapper is fucking incredible.

First, a brief list of things it does well/better than Fez/better than every puzzle platformer I've ever played:

  • Mechanics. The core mechanic is interesting and unique (but then, so was Fez's).
  • Puzzles. I only looked up the solution to two puzzles, and both times it felt fair. The solutions were hard, and I don't feel bad for looking up solutions because I had hit a wall, but I respect them. I frequently looked up things in Fez because quote "I'm not wasting my time figuring out the designers stupid little game."
  • Level connectivity. Another reason I solved more puzzles on my own in Swapper was that it was really easy to leave when stumped and return later. There's a good map and a satisfying way to travel between parts of it. With Fez, even with the map, I continually felt lost and disconnected. I had to solve every puzzle the first time I encountered it, because I could never be sure how to get back.
  • Story. The Swapper has an interesting one, Fez doesn't.
  • Mood/Story/gameplay integration: Good. Amazing. Psychonauts level. Fez's mechanic/story integration was actually quite good, but I didn't care because the story was stupid. Swapper, on the other hand, had a fascinating story. I found myself tracking down logs and story clues not to silence my inner completionist but because it was genuinely interesting and I wanted more data.
  • Emotional heft/artistic merit. I had originally worried that Swapper's core mechanic (you construct insta clones and swap your soul between them) would come off as cheap and quickly lose impact. What it actually did was make me incredibly sad as I felt my character lose reverence for life. I felt a little bit of her soul die every time I made her jump off a ledge, clone and swap into a new body close to the ground, and watch the body she just vacated squish to the ground. This is really impressive when you consider the character is hidden in a space suit, never talks, and doesn't do a thing without my instruction. Every emotion she feels is a projection.

So after all that, how much is Swapper worth? Like Fez I got it as part of a bundle, and am absolutely happy with what I paid. And I don't think there's anything anyone could have said to convince me to pay more for it at the time- I have a large backlog of games I've already paid for, why pay so much for another? But now that I've played it, and enjoyed it so much more than Fez (or Limbo, or Braid) I should be willing to pay more. Hell, the value of the time spent playing dwarfs the full retail price of the game. But Steam sales and Humble Bundle have completely broken the idea of "spending actual money on a game" for me. I view the price less as "me paying for a fun thing" and more as "me paying for a chance to find out if a thing is fun." That I get to keep playing the game for free if it is fun is sort of an afterthought.

PS. I thought I got fairly far in Fez before it became unplayable because it said "85%". Apparently the maximum is 200%, and the final puzzle needed to be brute forced by the internet at large for weeks. How is that fun?


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May 2014

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