By: Jeff Cater
Your footsteps patter against the loose tile roof, and the moon lights the world around you. The security bots are on their way, and you’ve only precious seconds to reach your escape pod. Not far now! We’ll just do a sweet double-jump here and… wow, I was up much higher than I had originally thought. Accidental deaths, loot snatching and cash management are all part of The Swindle, a cyberpunk caper brought to us by Size Five Games and Curve Digital.
While there’s no tutorial to get you started, the controls are pretty much identical to the majority of platforming games out there. The A button will let your character jump or double jump (if you’ve saved enough to unlock it), and “X” swings your club into the soft neck of a robotic police officer. If you press Y, you’ll interact with a part of the environment, usually a door that can be opened and closed at will, which is very handy for divvying up enemies and making taking them out much more manageable.
It’ll only be a few short minutes before you’re comfortable with the controls, but there were a few times where I could’ve sworn that my Xbox One controller flat-out hates me or that the game simply didn’t register my second jump input.
The entirety of The Swindle is a true example of hand-drawn beauty. Most of the characters feature a darker, grittier color palette and all have several different accessories that’ll (randomly) be assigned to them once they make their appearance. Don’t like your thief with the top hat? Chuck him off a building and the next guy might have a monocle or a sweet coat.
Playable characters and NPCs blend perfectly into the levels design and always feel right at home. Sometimes detail can be lost in the heat of a moment — for example, an explosive mine may blend in absolutely perfectly, and you won’t notice until it’s absolutely too late. The frame rate is steady, and I never noticed a drop even when making a dashing escape through several flashing alarms and angry robots.
The sound is fun and the soundtrack is stupendous, but aside from the typical grunts, screams and alarms there isn’t that much else here. The music does appropriately ramp up when you’ve set off an alarm, and it can almost certainly drive you into a panic if you’re caught unprepared.
In The Swindle, you are after an AI device called The Devil’s Basilisk, held in Scotland Yard. Basically, it’s an anti-thievery system that will, without question, halt all theft for all time. You have 100 days (with more purchasable later in the game) to sabotage Scotland Yard and keep thievery on the rise.
To do this, you must guide your thief (or thieves, most likely) through room after room in house after house, stealing any bundle of cash the careless inhabitants left strewn about. Along with cash laying on the ground, you’re able to hack computers (probably pirating software!!!) for cash and crack safes. Once you’ve picked the place clean, it’s time to make a getaway, so it’s back to your fancy flight-pod and then home base to purchase upgrades.
Probably the first thing you’ll notice is the extreme cost of some of these upgrades. Even to unlock the next tier of levels costs money (a large amount that rises with each tier), so deciding between an upgrade or a new set of houses can be difficult if you’re strapped for cash.
This game could push many people away after the first hour, because the difficult jump is absolutely insane between the first tier of levels and the second — it’ll likely have you traveling back to the previous areas to grind a bit more cash for some upgrades.
This is made important because of the perma-death feature of the game, as you will lose thieves and you will lose lots of money and time in the process. That being said, it’s still great fun slamming doors into robots, scaling slyly down walls and escaping with a overstuffed bag of cash.
The Swindle is simply great, albeit a bit unforgiving at first. Once you get the hang of things, however, you’ll find a real treat of a game here. I mean, we’ve got to keep thieves afloat.