Swap Zap Review—Surprisingly Great

swapzapSwap Zap will probably take the same path as Panda Craze, a Mini that offers a great gaming experience but still remains underappreciated because of its lack of…um…fancy things. “Graphics don’t matter”; a great gaming adage, but who are we fooling? The majority of the gaming population disagrees. If you go about praising a game with average graphics, they’ll call you an elitist or a nostalgic gamer stuck in decades past. Or both.

Swap Zap is an action puzzler that doesn’t have bells and whistles, frills and confetti. Instead, this Mini has the number one must-have characteristic for a puzzler: outstanding level design. Swap Zap came out of nowhere, and for the lack of a better term, like a ZAP!

Swap Zap features a heroine, Pam, who is trapped in a cargo container of a space shuttle. She must descend through six sections with ten levels each. Each level features a lot, definitely a lot, of obstacles and creatures. Indeed, a huge roster of characters and items. In order to complete a level, you must collect all the power cores so the airlock opens for the next level. These power cores are situated above the level most of the time, and you have to stack things such as boxes, radioactive barrels, cannons and whatnot in order to reach them. And, you are only armed with a swapping gun.

Shooting an item switches your place with it, and that by itself is a puzzler already. The other good thing about this game is that you can switch to aiming mode by pressing either shoulder button at any time. However, some (specifically the target demographic of this game) may have a hard time accepting that this game’s movement is analog nub only. You are unable to move while aiming because you are to use the nub for controlling the crosshair. The mighty D-pad is completely disabled except in the menus. Triangle or Square fires the gun, and jumping is allocated to Circle and X; just choose which you are comfortable with.

The beginning levels are easy-breezy. But, as soon as you progress beyond those, the joy and the difficulty begin. Each level can be completed within seconds—if you can complete it. The difficulty is not off-putting but requires ingenious puzzle-solving. The game has lives because there are damaging elements in each level. But, the life meter reverts back to full every time you proceed to the next level. This makes this Mini easy to stop and then resume; the gameplay is a per-level affair.

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Each level is radically different from the next. It is well constructed, well conceived and challenging. In some levels, you might be climbing upwards, building towers made out of boxes to reach the power cores. The next level, you are digging down through the “heavy loads” (items that cannot be swapped) by using weights that destroy everything except the floor, since the power cores are situated deep down in it. The next level, you are trying to stay out of sight of one-eyed, ghost-like monsters while jumping for your life because of what looks like a giant porcupine that rolls all over the room. Sometimes, there are additional hearts (lives) that fall to allow you to heal up. Sometimes, you are going to run around like a headless chicken because icicles are raining down. Bombs get triggered when you pass by them; boxes, crates and barrels have thorns on the sides or on top; radioactive waste containers emit harmful radiation; plants produce pollen that cover an entire area; and, so much more. Mix and match, and you have an unbelievable variety each level.

No action-puzzler would be playable without responsive controls. And lemmesay, “Yes!” for perfect controls.

Indeed, Swap Zap is an action-puzzler nirvana! This is the closest thing to Portal (the Flash version) on PSP. Of course, with inferior graphics and soundtrack. My complaint is the lack of a “restart level” option. You have to back out to the level selection menu to reset everything. It is nice to note, though, that the game assists you in some way, in that if a barrel/box gets destroyed accidentally, it will be replaced, with the game dropping one miraculously. However, in some levels, you have to be careful about swapping things around, or you have to start all over again. There was also one instance where I had to delete and redownload the game, because it got corrupted so badly that every time I started this game up, my PSP froze and restarted. I hope that will remain an isolated case.

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There is no scoring system, only records of the best time per level. No achievement system, just pure action-puzzling adventure. True, the 3D models are not attractive at all. The great thing about this game is that you are ready to forgive its poor aesthetics for its wonderful gameplay. Sure, accuse me of having an acquired taste, but this is the game that excels a lot where others have forgotten to try.

8.5/10

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Comments

11 Responses to “Swap Zap Review—Surprisingly Great”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    Good to hear that the game has good puzzle design. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a game developed in about 6 weeks over a year ago by a small team at a game programming school. That is some quite repellent character design, though. . . . It’s as if someone took Lori Machete from Unbound Saga and ran her through a de-hottening machine at max settings.

  2. Ofaliss says:

    I literally lol’d at that comment onmode-ky!

    But it’s true, she’s rather difficult to look at. Almost makes Jenna Velasquez look like a bombshell!

  3. Shazbots says:

    Cool game, is it coming out in NA? Please let us know. Thanks

  4. JeremyR says:

    I had a great aunt that looked like that. And dressed like that, sadly…

  5. thumbbandit says:

    How does the game compare to ‘Archibald’s Adventures’.
    Nice review buy the way :D

  6. volcane says:

    @thumbbandit

    I was just going to ask that exact same question! We must have a psychic link!! ;-)

  7. thumbbandit says:

    Just don’t be psychic over me… eeeww… where did the carrots come from?
    :D

  8. Jasper Nikki says:

    Archibald’s Adventure is the superior title. But it’s difficult to compare them, AA is an action platformer with puzzler elements (and great at it). Swap Zap is a fast-paced puzzler set in a single room.

  9. confuletlyf says:

    why so few screenshots? Is it really so ugly that we won’t want to see more? Is the game first person? There are no characters in the only gameplay shot you’ve posted.

  10. Daniel says:

    What do people seem to think is so great about these obtuse, wind-up merchant puzzle games??

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