Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 78 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Mobile games coming to console is a joy for some, and dread for others. You already know the arguments about Mobile coming to console. Some don’t like it because it’s mobile. Handheld gamers tend to have a hate feeling towards Mobile versus handhelds. (In simple terms, touch screen gameplay vs button gameplay). Then you have the arguments about why Mobile games cost so much more on consoles and handhelds, like Angry Birds Star Wars launching on consoles for $40+.
Nowadays, that is normally not as extreme of a case. Mobile games do generally cost more on handhelds and consoles, but there’s not nearly as big of a gap. As an example, Hitman GO recently released on the Vita and PS4. On iOS, the game costs $4.99. On PlayStation, it costs $7.99. You’re essentially paying $3 for use on consoles, and cross-buy aka two different versions of the game. Much better than $40 for Angry Birds.
Today’s review is on a Mobile game that recently came to the Vita (and only the Vita). Originally a small, but fun hit on Mobile, here is my official review of the Puzzle/RPG cross-genre game, Swap Quest!
The plot of this game is that you live in a kingdom that is under attack from a legendary demonic cloud known as “The Horde”. As the only member of your kingdom to rise up and try to fight it off, you’re on an adventure throughout your entire kingdom, both on the run from The Horde and searching and hunting for the tools needed to vanquish it and rescue the kingdom.
The story is pretty light in the game. You have an intro to explain the kingdom and the horde, and then some story towards the end of the game, and that’s about it. This is clearly intentional as the focus of the game is the actual gameplay and not the storyline.
SwapQuest is a puzzle game filled with RPG elements. In the developer’s terms and my own, think of it as a game that takes the formula of Pipe Mania and throws it into an RPG environment with RPG elements, from classes to equipment upgrades to leveling systems. Sometimes, it feels like more RPG, but I’d classify it as a puzzler with RPG elements thrown in.
When you play the game, you start by choosing your character and class. Character doesn’t make much of a difference, as it’s just you choosing to be a male or female character. Class makes a big difference, though. Like in the older Final Fantasy games, you have several classes to choose from, with strengths. For example, the Rogue is faster on their feet with dogs that can fetch treasure while Tricksters are slower but are good with magic. Your class will determine what sort of skills you can learn as you play the game.
Once you have your character set up, you will play through the tutorial and be taken to a world map. This map has you going on a point-based map to go through stages, working your way towards the Sky Pillar, where the game’s story progresses towards the finale. There are over 20 different stages to go through, and there are several branches and forks in the road, meaning you don’t have to follow a set path. You can choose whether to go into a snowy mountain path or a desert path and the like. Granted, you will do every stage by the end of the game, but you do have the freedom of choice before you get there.
Progressing through a stage is like Pipe Mania. You are traveling on a grid with The Horde slowly moving the stage on you, trying to reach you. Each tile of the grid has a road on it in various directions. Some are straight paths of various directions. Other function as corners and turns, and some function as intersections. You have to swap the tiles back and forth to create a path to lead you towards the goal at the end of the stage.
The Horde is not the only thing keeping you from the goal. Each stage has enemies placed around the map, along with puzzles like switching you have to move around and press to open doors or even energy balls that you need to direct away from you and towards a harness or statue that it activates. You have to think on all of this and head in your proper direction while the horde is still slowly moving towards you. It’s a big bunch of time management and figuring out what to move where as quickly as possible.
The next two things are Combat and Quests. When you waltz up to an enemy, you will automatically start fighting in a “You-attack, they-attack” pattern until you flee or one of you gets killed. Then, enemies drop hearts for health and gems you can use outside of stages. You also get Experience Points and can level up to increase your skills as well as upgrading your class. Every so many levels, your class will evolve, like Mage to Wizard, allowing you to learn a new skill. Remember what happens when you give Bahamut the Rat’s Tail in the first Final Fantasy? It’s like that, but with levels instead of items for a quest.
Then you have Quests, which are objectives to complete while you go through the stage like opening a certain number of chests or not getting caught by enemies. Adding to the million other things you’re thinking of as you swap tiles.
Finally, we get to the most fun you’ll have in the game: Boss Battles. Every few stages and you’ll encounter a boss fight. The stages will not move during these fights (except for one) and you’ll basically be swapping tiles while duking it out with a huge boss. This could be against a giant spider spitting web everywhere to slow your movement, a three-headed fire-spitting monster burning down a village, or even a kraken with tentacles around that you have to attack as you swim around a lake.
Every boss has a pattern and strategy to it. Some will be as simple as dodging attacks and running up to attack them while they’re stunned. Others are more in-depth. One boss has you using an pool of water to splash to knock the boss unconscious and then having you attacking it until it woke up, while others will have you launching defeated enemies towards them to break a shell to reveal their true form that you can actually damage with your weapons.
Outside of stages is where the other RPG mechanics get thrown in. You can visit the Caravan at any time on the World Map to customize. You can use gems you collect to buy weapons and equipment, upgrade your skills, or enhancing certain elements of your weapons.
Difficulty is something to also keep in mind. You’re constantly doing stuff and you can easily get cornered by The Horde, leading you to getting launched somewhere completely out of what you were doing and taking damage. It’s not exactly an easy game, but I wouldn’t say it’s abnormally hard, either. It’s a nice challenge and you can set the difficulty at will whenever you’re in the menu if things are too easy or too hard.
So what’s the bad part about this game? The only thing I will say is something that some Mobile reviews of the game have also said: The Game doesn’t tell you how to do a lot of stuff you’re supposed to do. There are no explanations of how, exactly to play the game, or what each icon is in the weapon upgrade menu. It’s not all that hard to figure out the gameplay if you’ve played Pipe Mania, but it’s still confusing when I upgrade my equipment.
Now, let’s go for length. There are about 24 stages on the world map, give or take. Most of them would take an average of 6-10 minutes to complete, while one stage I would put at an average of 30-40 minutes your first time through. Given that, and running internal numbers, that’s probably going to clock you around 3-5 hours, depending on how well you can play the game.
Controlling the game goes in two ways: Touch and Buttons. This is yet another game in the confusing section of games that can pretty much completely be controlled by the PS Vita’s buttons, yet is not compatible with the PlayStation TV. I plan to talk to the dev after I write this review to see if compatibility is in the cards for the future.
The control scheme is easy to pull up. Just hit the Select button during gameplay and the control scheme will show. Before going on, this is something extremely ueful as it shows a screen of where you are in the game. So, you can use this to plan out your moves while not worrying about the game going on while you think.
You can move with the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick, while changing direction is done with the Right Analog Stick. X allows you to select tiles to swap and cancelling a swap can be done with the Circle button. Triangle can set the cursor back to where your character it, and the L trigger also does this. Finally, Square lets you use an ability and R makes you stop or start moving.
The visual presentation is supposed to mimic older RPGs, so it’s set in a very SNES-like visual presentation. Imagine it like the Final Fantasy or Zelda games of that era. (Yes, I know very few Zelda games are RPGs. You know what I mean). The music is also put in to mimic RPGs of this era. There is quite a bit of variety and it works rather well.
The only gripe I have about the presentation are the load times. The load wait times aren’t bad. You normally only have to wait about 5 seconds for a screen to load. However, it kind of tricks you. The music doesn’t stop, making it feel like the loading will be instantaneous, and it isn’t.
SwapQuest is a mix of puzzle and RPG elements that got some good recognition in the Mobile world, and is on a good start in the handheld world. The load times are a little odd with the audio and a lot of the game isn’t explained at all, but it doesn’t stop this from being a fun little game for puzzle and RPG fans alike. It’s definitely worth your time.