Published on October 16th, 2018 | by Lee Davies
Review: The Swindle (Switch eShop)
Format reviewed: Switch eShop
Other formats available: Steam,
Developer: Size Five Games
Publisher: Curve Digital
Website: Official Website
London, 1849. Scotland Yard will soon activate its breakthrough surveillance technology, ‘The Devil’s Basilisk’. Its surveillance capabilities will be total, and your career as a master thief will be over. Steal it, before that can happen.
The Swindle is a steampunk cybercrime caper about breaking into buildings, hacking their systems, stealing all their cash, and quickly running away again before the police show up.
With a 100 days before that happens, so sets up the plot of The Swindle. A randomly-generated 2D platformer with a big difference. Each and every level is a self-contained randomly generated play area, resembling a sprawling house, with interconnecting rooms that holds stacks of cash, computers to be hacked for bank account currency, and robots patrolling the hallways in an attempt to thwart your pilfering means to an end. They’ll attack you, ignite the alarms and call the police to relentlessly hunt you down before you can escape and continue your cat burgling ways.
Platforming is simple enough: B jumps; Y attacks; X is your action button, like hacking, or opening doors; ZR brings up your inventory, with A being the button to use the chosen item in the over-world; and holding the Left Shoulder button crouches you into a stealthy sneak for those pesky robot guards with microphones. Movement feels great and fluid. You’ll see no slowdown throughout your play, unless it’s an intentional slow motion death scene which highlights how close to being caught you were. The only gripe about movement is the jumping isn’t B button press sensitive. So no matter how long you hold the B button for, your thief will always jump the same height, which can be quite a pain when you only need the smallest of hops between two precariously balanced enemies, and are unable to pull it off. It’s a small niggle that gets amplified, however, on the even more difficult levels thrown at you later in the game. For the most part, though, the movement is spot-on and most mistakes, like blowing yourself up on a mine, is all down to player incompetence, nothing the game has done. A single run at a level can last anywhere between 1 minute and 10 minutes, the levels are small enough to play in quick chunks, and this plays towards the game’s strengths. Pick and play replayability is strong with this one.
The Swindle also looks the part, too. Sure it’s not pushing the boat out, but it has a great Steam-Punk style that rivals the first SteamWorld Dig game. The music is absolutely fantastic throughout and if you want a more in-depth look at my thoughts on it, it was reviewed here.
The pace you set is completely up to you as the player. Choosing to spend money on upgrades or level expansion is what will greet you every time you return to the safety of your airship, the central hub of the game. You’ll start the game, and every time you leap to safety, on this old airship, where you can modify your thief with new skills, tools, and all manner of technological terrors to be constructed at the Workbench, allowing you access to new levels with better security, and gargantuan tracts of land! The airship also acts as the drop off point, via the Steam Pod, for your next theft-based incursion, and gives you a count down on the days that remain before Scotland Yard turn on The Devil’s Basilisk and end your only means of income.
Levels get progressively more difficult. Level 0, the Slums, sets up an introduction to the game with your thief having nothing but their wits, no money, no upgrades and hacking is impossible without learning it. So grab a few dollars, this is London but everything works in $, strange, but after one successful money grab, you’ll be able to return to the airship and equip your first low level upgrades.
Upgrades are vast in their scope. From Agility, like double jumping, speed, and stealth; Abilities like hacking skills, melee strength and teleporters (walk through walls); Tools like bombs, bugs, EMPs and remote detonators; Goggles that allow you to easily locate computers and money; to Miscellaneous Items like security clearance to a higher level with a greater opportunity for greater financial reward and a greater chance of capture/death. The sheer variety of items and upgrades that you can spend your limited resources on is astounding. You’ll certainly have to be careful how you spend, too. Do you prioritise your abilities on a level that rakes in less rewards, or spend your hard earned money opening a new level that your abilities may not yet be fully equipped for? There’s a great interplay between these two competing factors and play styles.
When on the mission, enemy bots, utilised to protect people’s wealth from pilfering hands, such as yours, have areas of sight that you must avoid being caught in. Doors can be closed to obstruct field of vision, and opened when the offending protector turns their back on you. However, in the more advanced levels, from Level 2 onwards, the bots incorporate more sophisticated weaponry to stop you in your tracks, and you must employ newer methods to also extract the full financial potential out of each run. That 100 day countdown moves faster than you think, and after a few runs where you return empty handed, the pressure mounts to be more daring to extract loot to make up for previous losses.
Death is not an end, but the start of a new life, and a new thief. However, you will lose all the loot that you collected upon the very last level you died at. Nothing more palm to the face than losing $10,000 for the merest slip-up. And slip-ups will occur aplenty, with mines, robots, drones, spiked enemies, all getting progressively more dangerous and ruthless the further into the games 6 levels you progress.
There were some oddities in the random generation that felt a little unfair at times. At the beginning of some levels you’ll notice too many robots in a single room making it nigh on impossible to get through that room. Fortunately, your wall climbing skills can be upgraded to get around and over such obstacles, but other problems like a completely walled off room, sealed to the outside world, may only be accessible with bombs, and as you carry only a limited amount, sometimes even those are untenable for use.
Apart from a very few issues with the unfair random generation and the slightly annoying jump height non-adjustable nature, The Swindle offers a great replay value. You’ll find yourself picking up this game just for 10 minutes to have a quick run through 2 levels to grab a few extra dollars so that you can buy the next wanted upgrade, and you’ll end up spending more time in this Steam-Punk world than you expected too. Fun, all the way to the bank.
When you play all the way through to the end of the 100 day countdown, and the game over for ever screen rears its head, you’ll be faced with the notion that if you want to start a new game, you’ll have lost everything you’ve accumulated before and have to start the whole game right from the very beginning. Even through this seemingly daunting prospect, The Swindle invites you into one more try at getting better right from the onset, and you’ll see that the more you play, the further and closer to the game’s end goal of stealing The Devil’s Basilisk you’ll get.
The Swindle (Switch eShop)
Summary: The Swindle offers a very easy to pick and play in small bite-sizes experience. Solid game mechanics, with an ever arching 100 day countdown, push you to taking chances and offering replayability that make this game hard to put down. Recommended for 2D platformer lovers.