The Swapper is probably the darkest game on Vita. The environments are dark, the audio is darkly minimal, and the story it weaves using environmental cues and snippets of text is - you guessed it - dark.
It's a game which, much like Lone Survivor, I found incredibly difficult to play for long periods of time because of the unrelenting bleakness of it all. Both games share the same hazy sense of confusion and uncertainty, tinged with a feeling of doom-laden inevitability.
You see, The Swapper takes place against the lonely backdrop of an abandoned space station. As your footsteps echo around pitch black corridors, this sprawling network of decaying technology feels like a fading footprint of human habitation.
It gives the strong impression that this space station was once a state of the art testament to human ambition and scientific progression, but now it's simply barren. And you, a mute adventurer equipped with powerful and experimental technology, are one of the only ones left behind.
Our protagonist has a gun, controlled using either the right stick or the Vita's touchscreen, which can create clones and make them materialise anywhere in visible range. Up to four clones can be deployed at one time.
But while all clones move simultaneously, responding to your inputs regardless of their on-screen location, only one of them is actually you. When clones are 'killed', you can always create another one - no big deal.
But when the human character dies, the autonomous being who controls the cloned projections, you're presented with a Game Over screen.
And this is where the concept of 'swapping' comes in. As long as you have a clear line of sight, The Swapper has the ability to effectively transfer his humanity to any clone. And this provides the basis for some really creative puzzles.
You'll likely feel as if you've got the measure of this mechanic early on. You'll get a little cocky, thinking you've seen everything that it can throw at you. But you couldn't be more wrong.
It all starts when you realise that time slows down as you begin to position a new clone, which allows for some incredible airborne trickery. Summoning a clone above you before swapping into it allows you to travel upwards almost indefinitely, propelled by a trail of clones plummeting to their deaths.
There are also pockets of blue light, within which cloning is restricted. And there are red lights, too, beneath which swapping is made unavailable.
And it accelerates from there, with the environment being used for some creative traversal puzzles. There are technological additions along the way as well, which I won't spoil here.
Dangers of cloning
It isn't entirely free of frustrations, though.
Puzzle purists will find plenty to gripe about here. Because success in The Swapper relies on dexterity almost as much as it does on intuition, understanding the solution isn't enough on its own.
Often, you'll see and understand the solution a long time before you actually achieve the pinpoint precision and timing necessary to manifest that knowledge. And while it's satisfying to get that timing just right, it can be infuriating getting there.
But overall, The Swapper is a deeply atmospheric puzzler which enriches the Vita's software line-up with its presence. Its style is hauntingly beautiful, its conceit is creative, and its overall package is coherent and unique.