Indie Quickie: SwapQuest

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What is it and who made it? A tile-swapping pixel art RPG puzzler by Rebusmind.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? Although previously released on Android and iOS devices, SwapQuest is brand new this week for PlayStation Vita. Pick it up for $6.99 from the PlayStation Store, with a slight discount available to PlayStation Plus subscribers.

How much did we play? Around an hour and forty-five minutes in the main quest mode, plus maybe another 10-15 minutes attempting a couple runs in the endless play mode. My hero is up to level 11. Oh, and my impressions are from time with the new Vita version, just in case that wasn’t already clear.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? No bugs, glitches, or anything else like that to report so far.

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Why should you play it?

    • Follow the Tile-Swapped Road: SwapQuest may look like a spritey JRPG from the 80s and 90s, but it is quite a different breed of game altogether. Levels are selected on branching paths from a familiar-looking top-down overworld map. Within each area, the gist of the game is to create a trail for your hero to follow by dragging and dropping tiles with different path directions into place on a grid-based map, like connecting pieces together in a pipe puzzler, all in an effort to reach a finish line at the far end of the map while staying ahead of an ominous purple fog that’s always steadily creeping up from behind. Of course, enemy creatures and treasure chests appear across the map–as do various weather and environmental effects like fires and lightning strikes–and you have control over which encounters to lead the hero into or avoid. The hero’s actions are on autopilot sort of like a runner, though you can tap on him to pause his progress or change directions. Certain active abilities on cooldown timers (like an area-of-effect shout) can also be deployed by tapping on the correlating sidebar icon, but that’s about the extent of the direct control. All in all, the concept is quite clever and well executed.

    • Clever Bosses: Speaking of clever, the game’s bosses put the tile-swapping mechanic to use in some interesting ways, as you have to pay attention to their attack and movement patterns, swap tiles to create paths for the hero to safely steer clear of the attacks or other surrounding dangers, use elements of the environment (like pools of water that spray droplets everywhere when repeatedly tapped) to stun the boss, and then connect a trail leading the hero into position to attack the vulnerable beast. The two bosses I’ve defeated have been the highlight of my time with the game so far. They’re neat encounters that really show off the game’s unique gameplay.

    • Surprising RPG Depth: Okay, so the game is totally on the RPG-lite side of things as far as having limited choices and narrative scope, but for its more casual, puzzle-centric style the game’s role-playing elements are surprisingly robust. At the beginning of the adventure, you’re given the option of playing a male (Wilbert) or female (Wilma) character as one of six available starting classes–fighter, rogue, tinkerer, and so on–each with unique abilities and varying attack, defense, luck, and speed attributes. Experience points are earned by leading the hero into battle with creatures (and coming out the victor of course), and like any RPG, the hero levels up and increases in power over time, eventually even evolving into advanced class specializations (for example my starting fighter has since developed into a knight). Further customization can be done from the world map caravan, where jewels looted during the adventure are spent on upgrading active/passive skills, buying more powerful swords and armor, and enchanting gear with elemental effects/resistances. In addition to the main goal of simply getting from point A to point B, each stage begins with three side quests offering optional challenges that reward bonus jewels for fulfilling objectives such as clearing the map within a time limit, killing X number of enemies, or finishing with full health. Be careful with how many jewels you carry at a given time, though, as any precious loot in the hero’s pouch is lost forever upon death. That’s where the caravan’s safe comes into play, for banking your jewels between missions so they don’t get lost.

Parting Thoughts: With cute pixel art and a unique blend of RPG, puzzle, and runner-esque mechanics, SwapQuest is the perfect sort of game to play at those times when you want the gratification of completing quests and leveling up but don’t have the time or aren’t necessarily in the mood to invest in a full-blown RPG. The game is an ideal mate with the Vita as well, both for its intuitive touch controls and its short bursts of addictive tile-swapping questing, levels generally lasting no more than five to ten minutes depending on how OCD you get about killing every enemy and looting all treasure chests. Plus there’s an endless mode as well as a surprisingly sizable list of 31 trophies to aim for, including a coveted Platinum. So, what are you waiting for? Gets ta swappin, folks!

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A review code for SwapQuest was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!