Set in a steampunky Victorian London, The Swindle is a game about nicking things. It’s a game currently available on PC and various Playstation consoles, which features many platforming aspects with a whole bunch of interesting stealthy features thrown in for good measure. I actually found the game when I was looking through all the PS+ freebies available to me on my PS Vita, and it caught my eye in the recommended items list. It looked quirky, fun and stealing things (in video games!) is surprisingly appealing to me, so it seemed like an easy choice to give it a try.
You start off as a master thief who is alerted to Scotland Yard’s latest crime prevention technology – the Devil’s Basilisk – which is set to be deployed in one hundred days. It has an alluring enough name to prick any thieves ears up, but the fact that it’ll make any burgling impossible makes it prime target number one. The issue is, in this steampunk world, everywhere has different security levels, so you need to build up your cash by breaking in and grabbing all the spare change and hacking computer terminals to let you buy access into the next region.
In those hundred days, you’ll be able to rob all sorts of different places, and the best part of it? None of them are the same. The Swindle offers procedurally generated levels to prevent any players from getting too bored to their surroundings, or even from finding easy routes to speedily run in, grab the cash, and dash out. It gives you endless replayability as you’ll always be able to find levels that are more lucrative and perhaps less populated with guards to boost your income and steal the Devil’s Basilisk in a quicker fashion.
The standout feature, and what really caught my eye at first, was the phenomenal artistry present in this game. A lot of effort went into it and it really pays off as you’ll have a variety of beautiful environments to explore and some colourful looking characters to help you do it. What I really enjoyed, above all else, was the enemy design. I’m a fan of steampunk in general, and the gadgetry and robotics that some people come up with to go with the genre is really quite cool, and Size Five Games absolutely nailed it with this game. You’ll often see lots of well-designed little police constable bots roaming the hallways to prevent you from pilfering too much, but there are also a load of other cute and interesting enemies to avoid as well.
All the money you get in the game will help you progress in it and not just by buying the various security passes to the more lucrative regions. You’ve got access to five different hubs that let you upgrade your character as much as you can afford, and not just in ways that are nice to have, but in ways that actually make a difference. You’ll be able to grab upgrades to have a quadruple jump, or if you prefer, you can bring along an EMP bomb in your backpack to really mess with all the bots that roam the area. In all, there are thirty different ways to optimise your character, so you can create a character that really suits your play style and maximise your ill-gotten gains.
If you do choose to buy the game, then I hope you’re up for a challenge, because the Swindle is one of the most challenging games I’ve played on my Vita. When I started it up, I sorely underestimated it and didn’t see the point in upgrading my character – a decision that I sincerely regretted after a few stages! You’re given a few stages to acclimatise to the game and your surroundings, where security cameras are non-existent and guards are quite simple to dispose of, but very quickly the game picks up the pace and if you’re not careful, you’ll get left behind and start to struggle with breaking in.
The challenge is a positive, but it’s also a negative. Although there are certain aspects of the challenge that are well made, such as the enemy types and what they can and can’t do, the rest of it relies too heavily on randomly created levels and on occasion, when the controls don’t react quite as you’d expect them to. Even if you’ve traversed the whole building, looted 100% of the cash and seen off all the guards that live there, you may fall foul of the controls screwing up. There were a few times where I should have been sliding down the wall to safety when in fact my character thought that suicide was the best way of getting the £10,000 back to my bank. It’s an incredibly frustrating aspect that really shouldn’t have been.
Following on from that point, the randomly generated levels aren’t great either. While none are identical, there aren’t really that many different sections to them, so you’ll be able to recognise certain parts fairly quickly. The worst part though, is when the level generates an impossible level. These are infrequent, I think I only encountered maybe five or six impossible levels, but that’s still five or six levels out of the hundred that I couldn’t finish. The impossible levels generally involved rooms that couldn’t be exited, because the only way in and out was a hole from the top that was out of reach for the character. While this problem is easily circumvented when you’ve amassed enough cash to get a double, triple or quadruple jump, at the start, you’ll have to commit suicide and lose all your hard earned takings.
That isn’t all though, there’s also the prospect of having entire sections of the level in inaccessible rooms. You generally need to get to computers to hack them, as that’s where the big scores are and where you’ll make the majority of your money. Hacking is a fairly easy proposition, but only when you’re actually able to get to the computers. I ran across so many computers that were locked in rooms without any entrances that it made the game incredibly difficult to complete – in fact, in my first run through I couldn’t complete it because of all the inaccessible rooms! It hardly endeared me to the game and had me seriously angry at certain parts of it.
The Swindle is a good game. If you pick it up, you’ll really enjoy the various elements it has on offer. Stunning artwork, fantastic music and enjoyable and addictive gameplay will make it worth keeping in your library as it has so much replay value. Although it does some issues with it – the level generation being the worst of it all – it’s a very fun game when it swings in your favour, and with near-unlimited levels, it’s one that is well worth a play.