The Swindle is a little hard to define as a genre – it has a number of elements from a wide variety of them including: platformers, RPGs, stealth and roguelike. The Swindle is the latest project from Size Five Games, creators of the wonderfully wacky Steam game Gun Monkeys.
Set in a wonderful cyberpunk/steampunk world, the player in game has one hundred days to guide randomly generated characters (which hilariously are all hunchbacks) through the increasingly hazardous world of The Swindle. These characters never last long though – it’s a difficult game!
The player is tasked with stealing money from areas including slums (which admittedly made me feel a little immoral) and banks (which made me feel a little better). These smaller robberies then fund your purchase of a security pass – your key for the final heist. Each level corresponds to one day within the game allowing you the flexibility to play through in one sitting, or even as a game to dip in on the side whilst you play through the latest AAA release.
It seems that Size Five, like many other indie developers, have chosen to go for a simple narrative in order to focus on engaging and exciting gameplay – I would probably say that those looking for a engrossing story should probably look elsewhere. Set in 1849 Victorian London, although with a massive technological upgrade, The Swindle casts you as career criminals whose livelihoods are under threat knowing that Scotland Yard will be activating their latest A.I security system, known as the ominously named ‘Devil’s Basilisk’, in one hundred days. While this may not seem too complex, this could be viewed as Size Five’s comment or even warning about the increase of surveillance, and perhaps lack of anonymity and privacy in order to prevent ‘crime’.
Visually The Swindle is not exactly dazzling – probably comparable to games like Viewtiful Joe. However that’s not really what this game is about, and I feel that the core aspects of the game perfectly fit the style. As previously mentioned the games style is mostly steampunk, with elements of cyberpunk, resulting in a rather dark looking game – something that has been done before in other steampunk titles such as Dishonored.
The design of the enemies in the game very much adhere to the theme; the guards of the homes you are stealing from are weird robots, which eerily look like they are falling apart. One guard being is literally a brain in a jar on wheels!
Levels are randomly generated and are relatively basic in that they are made of simple columns. However it is evident that a lot of effort has been put into the backdrops of The Swindle; throughout the different areas in the game (of which there is six including the last level) you are treated to steampunk variations of London’s famous landmarks. Although anachronistically one of these features is the London Eye – lets put that down to improvement of technology!
When it comes to actual gameplay The Swindle is really something! The main goal of the game is to sneak into whatever building your airship crash lands at, take any money you can without alerting any guards and then sneak out before you are spotted, resulting in the alarms going off and after a minute or so the arrival of the police. Sounds simple right? Wrong. For example let me give you the story of my first heist: being a self-proclaimed Metal Gear Solid expert I thought that I would be able to sneak in past the guards easily and steal all the loot. I tried to sneak in through the window but I was spotted, an alarm goes off and I start to panic. Not wanting to walk away empty handed, I run in the front door of the house and take a measly £12, which is put into my swag bag, and make a quick escape. This happened repeatedly until I realised that I would never earn the amount of money that I needed to buy the Security Pass for the final heist – defeated I started again…many times. You see that’s the only problem with The Swindle – the extreme difficulty. Of course you can give yourself more of a fighting chance with the right spending of money on upgrades, the first of which is the ‘hack’ ability which utilizes quick time presses (which becomes heart racing when the alarm is going off) for a large bulk of cash. Other upgrades include bombs, and eventually a teleporter. What I will tell readers is to purchase the ‘Bug’ upgrade as early as possible, as this will make the game a lot easier. Eventually I did reach the last level twice on the same playthrough, although I did die both times, leaving me feeling rather degraded.
The final aspect of the game I would like the discuss is the audio. The sound design of the game is brilliant. When not in the alarm state the game pulses out erratic techno-like tunes, each area having a unique sound. Ominously though there is a metronome like sound ticking in the background, as if to remind the player that there is limited time for them to make the most of every heist! During the alarm state the game switches up to a dubstep tune, adding a sense of panic to the situation that you will undoubtedly find yourself in. I did find myself whistling this tune, probably due to the great amount of time I found myself in the alarm state.
My time with The Swindle has been extremely enjoyable – it is both addictive and frustrating at the same time. At times The Swindle had me feeling like the greatest thief that London has every seen, while at other times I felt like a bungling burglar fresh out of Home Alone. With the added elements of tense theme tunes, incredible backdrops and the fact that no playthrough or level will ever be the same The Swindle is extremely refreshing. My only regret is that I may never be able to complete that dastardly last heist!
– Extremely addictive, rewarding gameplay
– Loads of replay value
– Great backdrops.
– The high difficulty
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4