Every 365-days-or-so here at DontCritMe, we humble editors all gather around and pick games that we feel stood out above all others over the past year. Last year was easy, because let’s be honest… there wasn’t really a whole lot to choose from. It was a lackluster year at best for gaming, but it looks like most of us were correct in predicting that 2013 would hold a lot more to be excited about.
This year was a busy one for me — There was almost too much good stuff to play. My 2013 started out with Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and God of War: Ascension. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon came later, along with The Last of Us. F1 2013, Grand Theft Auto V, Pokemon X & Y and Dragon’s Crown were also good, but alas… I can’t sit around all day naming off every title that I liked. I mean, I could… but I won’t.
While all of the aforementioned games were enjoyable, my pick for Game of the Year had to be something special — Something that left a lasting impression on me that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. No, it’s not a AAA title. It’s a sci-fi puzzle-platformer crafted by a small independent team of developers in Finland. It’s called The Swapper, and I’ve fallen in love with it.
The Swapper takes place in an abandoned space station, and while it’s sometimes absolutely beautiful to look at, there’s always a feeling melancholy or sadness that you may be familiar with if you’ve ventured through Super Metroid. The Swapper‘s sad, abandoned world has its eeriness bolstered by a striking and unusual art style, made possible by the fact that the foreground and background pieces in the game were created by photographing clay models, so every single piece of the environment has a strangely realistic quality to it.
In brief, gameplay revolves around the use of a handheld gun that allows you to create copies, or clones, of yourself and “swap” places with them (hence the game’s title.) It’s a simple function to grasp, but while the game’s early puzzles are fairly easy to solve, they later develop into impressive challenges that require the player to master the forces of gravity and inertia, and ultimately come to grips with the fact that you need to heartlessly murder your own clones in order to advance further in the game.
There’s no way around it. You’ll send numerous copies of yourself plummeting to their death, but that’s part of what makes The Swapper so unique and evocative. I remember having my “Oh… damn” moment while playing early in the game — A moment in which one of my clones fell lifelessly to the ground with a loud thud, making me question what I had done. “Oh… damn. Did I just selfishly murder a former version of myself in cold blood for my own personal gain? Or, wait… did I just commit suicide? Am I still me, or am I a husk of what I once was? Are the clones living beings? Where do they go when they die?”
It’s questions like these that very few games tackle, and it’s questions like these that add to the overall mysterious theme of The Swapper. With its masterful storytelling and expertly crafted puzzles, it’s an unforgettable experience that ranks among the best games I’ve ever played, and that’s why it gets the nod for my 2013 Game of the Year.
The Last of Us
Looking Ahead to 2014:
As a huge fan of the Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, Dark Souls II is undoubtedly the one title that I’m looking forward to the most in 2014. Some other notables I’m excited about are Double Fine’s Broken Age, EverQuest Next, WildStar, Drakengard 3 and Metal Gear Solid V.
I’ll also continue to hold my breath for The Last Guardian. I want to believe.