Title: Swaps and Traps
Publisher: Drageus Games Factory
Genre: Adventure, Arcade,Platformer, Puzzle
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: Teen – Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood
Release Date: 02/08/19
Price: £8.09 – Rapid Reviews were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Mike is a decent man. An ordinary one, you might say. But…
No. No – I am not talking about our Editor-In-Chief, Mike O’Hara, here at Rapid Reviews. I am talking about the main protagonist of Swaps and Traps, the debut game by developers TeamTrap, which has launched on the Nintendo Switch. Focussed on capturing the enchanted hat from his arch-nemesis, Divider, Mike has to overcome challenges, traps, platforms and obstacles to reach the end goal in each level. Advertised as a game with ‘a retro vibe, with simple gameplay against high-level difficulty’, I was keen to see if this single-screen platforming title is worthy of the high praise it received on Steam when it first released in 2018.
I have a natural infinity with single-screen games – take the levels I designed in Mario Maker 2, for example. I find there is something special about crafting a gameplay experience that can fit into one bite-sized screen, just as I find it equally as special when games create sprawling open-world games that take literal minutes to traverse. Swaps and Traps prides itself on its use of a single screen, and again on how it manipulates said screen to produce something thought-provoking and challenging.
With the clues being in the name, Swaps and Traps is all about screen swapping and trap setting. Taking control of Mike, you are tasked with collecting the gold keys in each level before navigating your way to the portal. Upon collection of the gold keys, a portal opens. At the same time, portions of the level are twisted to make it much more challenging to platform your way to the finish. For example, the screen may be split in half and swapped, or a quarter of the screen may be rotated 90 degrees. There is no end to the madness that TeamTraps have conjured and proves to be quite the challenge to overcome.
Swaps and Traps is a fun game, which will challenge your platformer skills as well as your eyes and necks. As you collect a key in a scene, you also trigger the main trap of the game. Portions of your screen will swap, turn and even flip horizontally and vertically to give you one unique adventure.
There are three worlds, with each offering over 30 levels which culminates in 100+ levels. The world provides the context for the backdrop and the game assets, and range from moving platforms, spikes, and rotating saws. It is a rather unusual collection that offers little normality but works well nonetheless. It is evident that a lot of time has been taken to design the levels, and there is commonly only one way to complete them. Finding the solution is where this game comes into its own, as it is incredibly difficult at times, be it to identify the way forward or to execute it.
This game will surely divide players: those looking for a relaxing, casual platforming experience will do well to steer clear, whereas those after a challenging, at times frustrating, and ultimately satisfying experience will be pleased with the end result. It is not without its flaws, but time and again, I found myself having just one more go as I had made a spot of progress last time or identified a different way which may work.
While the story offered little, and the audio bordering on irritating, the core mechanics of Swaps and Traps are superb. I couldn’t wait to collect the keys and see just what I was going to be up against when the screen changed, and the way it got me thinking and analysing is something I haven’t experienced in a game for quite some time. For example, if a portion of the screen has been rotated 90 degrees, Mike will appear at a 90-degree angle when in that section too. The controls navigate as if they would have the screen been upright, and it, therefore, can mean left is right, right is left etc. As well as this, edging your self to the end of a rotating section means that you can see where Mike would end up if you move forward once more – it is a fantastic way to improve upon a tried and tested formula of platforming.
There are a couple of tweaks that could have been made to make the game more accessible, the primary one being the ability to select a level rather than having to complete them in order. Often I was stuck on a level for some time, and it meant I was unable to enjoy the game as much as I would have liked. I also think the ability to rewind would have been excellent: I regularly died and had to restart. In doing so, I had to complete the levels from the beginning and found I became complacent as I was in a rush to get to the bit I had previously died at. Subsequently, mistakes were made, and I became more and more frustrated as time went on.
Swaps and Traps have the potential to be a game that is hard to put down. Unfortunately, its level of difficulty and unforgiving nature meant that it often became one I played for ten to twenty minutes before taking a break. Couple that with ugly narrative and uninspiring audio, and it’s one that almost got it right but isn’t quite the complete package. I would love to see the concept developed further: a ‘Mario Maker’ inspired to create your own levels would be a fantastic addition.
In its current form, and with its modest price, it would be ill-advised to miss out on this title if you like a challenging and thought-provoking gaming experience. Just be ready to put the controller down when, not if, it gets too much, and be sure to mute ol’ Mike when he starts complaining about you not moving, or when he dies over and again.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Swaps and Traps from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/swaps-and-traps-switch/
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.