Another day and another Rogue-like with platform elements appears in an already saturated market. However, The Swindle tries to do things a little different by setting itself up as a heist game. It is certainly an engaging prospect and something not as prevalent as many of the other templates for Rogue-like games. Attach the steam punk setting and it is clearly trying to set itself apart from the crowd as you plan your next move from a big airship in the sky.
The basic premise behind the game is that you have one hundred days to break into the most high security location in the game. Your first heists will be against small and under guarded targets and you gradual work your way up to more secure locations which offers both more reward and more danger. Every time you die, complete a heist or run back to your airship you lose a day.
The money you accumulate needs to be spent on upgrades for your thieves, airship and to unlock security clearance which allows you to move onto bigger and better locations for looting. There are a wide range of things to improve from abilities like jumping and hacking to adding equipment such as bombs and devices to keep away the cops.
If you are discovered during a heist an alarm will be sounded which alerts all the security measures in the level to your presence. From that point on the best thing to do is try and grab as much easy cash as you can and run back to your airship. If you hang around for too long the police will arrive in a hovering gun ship thing which proceeds to blast through the level until it reaches and kills you. When you die you lose all money found in the level and this is then unrecoverable.
There’s certainly potential here but there are a number of things which stop The Swindle being as enjoyable and compelling as it could be. The main issue is that the controls feel lose and awkward. Jumping and climbing around can be a pain and even after you have upgraded your thief things don’t really improve that much. This isn’t helped by a lack of impact behind actions which gives the player very little feedback with regards to things like successful strikes on opponents and when you have landed on walls or other surfaces.
There’s also a problem with the random nature of the level design. In numerous amounts of our runs we came up against things which were simply impossible to pass which meant we had to head back and lose a day without acquiring any gold at all. While it’s ok to have the ability levelling system, having the main money computer stuck in a level with no corridors leading to it is incredibly annoying. Games like Spelunky also use the random generator but there is always a way to proceed and in a game with a tight time limit such as this the system could use some tweaking as at the minute there are too many occasions where levels are either too repetitive or lack access to their bounty.
The final hurdle is that colour blind gamers are really going to struggle with this. Aside from red and green being used for dangerous/safe colours there are sometimes just too many enemies lurking around on sections of the level to pick out smaller objects like mines clearly. We counted a good twenty five out of a hundred runs where we had absolutely no idea what killed us.
Faults aside there is undoubtedly an interesting game here. When you get involved in a good heist the tension builds as you edge around hoping not to be discovered. Hacking a computer, stealing the funds and then making a mad cap chase back out is also a great feeling and highly rewarding when you’ve had to think on the fly as you go.
Overall, The Swindle is a good idea and an inventive setting let down at times by an awkward control scheme and levels which don’t always seem to populate in a logical or constructive way. It’s good to see new twists being added to the Rogue-like formula and a promising foundation to build upon for future updates or a sequel. At the minute though it provides an interesting distraction but nothing that is likely to keep you interested in the long term.