The Swindle

Size Five Games

 

The Preamble: The Internet is awesome. Really when you think about it, it has made everything a bit faster and easier, from work to fun it's bloody brill. That said, it has picked up kind of a bad rap from gamers in some circles. Sure it may allow you to blow the crap out of a French kid in CoD (and who doesn't enjoy that?) but when was the last time your mates came to your actual house from some live on sofa co-op? More importantly remember all those dreadful releases? Battlefield 4, Sim City you know the ones, the just get it out on time and we will patch it until the bugs are gone releases. I remember in the good old days when you'd get a game and it would work out of the box without a 2 GB day-one patch to stop your PS4 exploding. Well not all games go that way and Size Five Games are nothing if not a reactive bunch. Early reviews of The Swindle had gamers lamenting the steep difficulty curve and how expensive everything was initially so they knocked out a patch lickety split to add some more balance and quiet the fears. The Internet as it should be, there for post-game tweaks where required not post-game "make-it-work" fixes. The question is, with or without these changes is The Swindle worth a few of my hard earned pennies? Well read on dear reader read on and you'll find out.

Battlfield 4: Good game, shite launch...

 

The Plot: The Swindle is a steampunk cyber-crime caper about breaking into buildings, hacking their systems, stealing all their cash, and quickly running away again before the police show up. All the buildings you’ll be robbing are randomly-generated, so you’ll never get the same level twice. Meanwhile, from the safety of your rickety airship up in Outer Space, you can modify your thief with new skills, tools, and all manner of advanced technological horrors, allowing you to take on bigger buildings with better security, for gargantuan rewards! The aim is to steal the new super-spy technology that will put you out of business. Have you got what it takes to pull off The Swindle?

 

The Review: At it's core Size Five Games steal-em-up The Swindle is a game where you aim to loot as much cash from each of the procedurally generated level as possible before escaping in your rocket back to the mother-blimp to tool up and go again. You have 100 days (or tries effectively) to accrue enough smarts and cash to fully tool up so that you can take on the final level and steal the Devil's Basilisk a super AI technology that promises to make stealing a thing of the past. The Swindle has been compared to Spelunky and you can see why you're given little in the way of help just dropped into the first of the six zones and expected to figure it out for yourself. You can jump, mash things with your thieving stick and 'interact'  to open doors, hack computers and drop bombs (Ed: like the House of Pain?!?). Your first thief will die quickly, inexperience quickly telling as you fall too far, move that split second too late or miss the giant obvious mine.

Ah Henry Beresford, you died too young... and too full of spikes...

 

Your second thief might last a couple of heists before falling into a pit of spikes or getting trapped in an inescapable situation and having to be 'terminated' for their own good because you chose door bashing over the double jump (buy the double jump people, buy it!). By thief number three you'll think you have the game down, you'll think you're on a roll and then you'll get greedy... and die. Then you'll think you're behind because of all of the thieves that keep dying and you'll get desperate... and die. Then you'll trigger an alarm without just as your about to hack a computer, 'I just have time' you'll think then you'll hack it just as the fuzz arrive... and die. You get the picture death is as much a part of The Swindle as any Souls game and it will almost certainly be your own fault every time.

 

There is a nice variety of traps and guards to keep you on your toes as you progress Some slow ones that can see for miles, some that hover around with machine guns attached and others that have spikes on their backs making them dangerous even when you've knocked the stuffing out of them. There is also a very healthy upgrade tree with a whole bunch of creative and useful upgrades to keep you ticking along and thieving in the way that you want to thieve. And after a recent patch the early upgrades to get you on the road are a little cheaper to make the start a little more forgiving.

Skills... fasands of them!

 

Procedural generation is great when it works and it does the vast majority of the time here, you may see similar levels but none will ever be the same twice. However there are occasions where it all goes a bit Pete Tong and you'll hit a level packed with traps, cameras and robot guards (which is fine) but where all of the cash in an underground room that you can't get to (which sucks balls). I also once had a level where there was no security of any kind which while a fantastic boost to my coffers felt a little too easy.

 

Just a quick note on the graphics which I personally loved (Who doesn't like a steampunk robot in a silly hat?) they helped to add real personality to the thieves too. You get one you like the look of - one with a crazy Mohawk and beard combo for example - and you'll want to keep them around just because. It reminded me of XCOM in that way you really can get attached to some of the little blighters. The music too is excellent, ticking away in the background when you're out on the rob the tempo swinging up if you get spotted it really adds something to the feel of the game.

A computer... that is where the big money is if only that guard wasn't there...

 

Don't get me wrong the game is not perfect, the controls can be sluggish at times the thief jumping just too slowly and ending up face first in a pit of spikes with a cloud of your hard earned cash floating around him. Or the procedural generation leaving the only route to the cash past a robot who can't fail to spot you due to him being trapped on a single block and this can lead to the dreaded cycle of doom. The cycle of doom is where you fail meaning you get no cash and no upgrades, the next level is slightly harder and you fail again trying to make up for the loss (no cash and no upgrades). Now the levels are even harder and you're further behind, so you die again... you get the idea sometimes you get into a losing streak you just can't get out of an have to bail from the game and start again, which you will because it's fun but still.

 

The Score: 8/10 - The Swindle is a brill steampunk steal-em-up adventure in the Spelunky mould that which is well worth giving a go. The journey from neophyte footpad to master burglar is empowering and the procedural generation keeps everything fresh and interesting. If you can look past the odd glitchy level with nothing to steal and the sometimes sluggish controls there is a lot to love about Size Five Games crime caper. Now please excuse me I'm off back to the slums... it's time to get my loot on.