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The Swindle

By drcoolio34520-10-2015
The Swindle

The Defence

Size Five Games
Size Five Games
Action, Indie, Role Playing
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
4 GB
1 GB

The Case

The Swindle is a 2D stealth game filled with robots, hacking, and crime developed and published by British indie studio Size Five Games. It looks good, but so does the perfect crime, so the question is this: is The Swindle here to steal our hearts and make us fall in love with it? Or is it just trying to swindle us?

The Trial

The story is simple enough. In 100 days, Scotland Yard will activate "The Devil's Basilisk," and despite how utterly cool that name is, it'll monitor everything and end your career as a master thief if they complete it. That's why you have no choice but to break into the police district, steal it, and dispose of device before it's too late. One might even call this robbery the ultimate swindle.

Like taking a candy from a baby.

Like taking a candy from a baby.

Now all that's fun and good, but the plot has very little to do with the game. In an almost Dark Souls sense, The Swindle is all about the gameplay, and just like Dark Souls, it’s good. It's got no cutscenes, exposition, or tutorials that take away control or slow it down, just beautiful art and gameplay that works. Hacking computers, evading line of sight, and picking up all the stacks of cash that residents seem to leave all over the floor of their businesses make up the majority of the game, but it always feels tense. Clinging to a wall just slightly above a guard’s line of sight is exhilarating, and planning on how you're going to take him out with 4 of his friends in the same room just adds tension to the scene. Plus, with each and every heist being procedurally generated and being stuffed full of enemy types varying in speed, power, line of sight length, movement, and characteristics (both visual and practical), The Swindle is always keeping you on your toes.

Toes that you'll be needing a lot of, because you're going to be dying and gaining control over another characters set of toes, legs, and body every time you die. And dying in The Swindle happens about as often as Mario jumping. When you die you drop your money and lose a day, but you keep any upgrades that you've purchased. Of course, those upgrades aren't what's going to beat the game for you. Proving yourself as a "master thief" isn't about upgrades, it's about learning how to use them, and you're going to need both those upgrades and those skills if you ever hope to make it to the final heist, the swindle.

Getting there is both hard as well as unbelievably expensive. Throughout the game you move to newer, richer neighbourhoods to steal your sweet loot with each area having more than the last, but the last location, the police district, switches that up. Instead of paying an entry fee and having it for the rest of the game, you have to spend £400,000 for a one-time pass, and if you fail, well screw you I guess, pay up again. It's frustrating, especially when you have such an elaborate skill tree where you know that your money could be better spent.

When you’re tired of swindling, enjoy the skyline.

When you’re tired of swindling, enjoy the skyline.

That repetitiveness is The Swindle's only big downfall. The ending gets repetitive with buying a pass, failing, being forced to collect more money again, and then failing a couple more times before finally lucking out by getting an easier, randomly generated level. On top of that you have hacking which you use to interact with just about everything, but the quick and easy QTE sequence right before it becomes more of a nuisance than a tension-raiser after the 500th time you've done it.

The Swindle's 2D art style is absolutely gorgeous, the soundtrack is catchy, and moving around feels fluid for the most part. There are a few bugs like climbing from the corner of an enclosed room up to the roof by jumping into the wrong place, some systems are unexplained, and I swear that the spike trap can kill you from farther away than it should, but these issues happen so far and in-between that they're passable, especially for a cheaper game made by an indie studio.

The Verdict

Ignoring a few bugs, The Swindle is a really well made game. Gameplay can get repetitive, but procedurally generated levels and enemy variety keep the game fresh enough for players to keep playing and your characters stay dying. Moments like hacking a computer with a guard coming just around the corner or blowing your way through walls to make an escape route are what make The Swindle special and interesting enough to come back to days later.

Case Review

  • Art: The game is visually gorgeous, and every time you reach a new location you’re reminded of that.
  • Tension: Hanging just above a guard's line of sight as you hatch your plan of attack is stressful and exhilarating.
  • Skill: There's luck involved with the randomly generated levels, but it always comes down to skill to see if you can pull off the heist.
  • Difficulty: If you like a challenge this is a game for you, but if not, might want to be wary of this title.
  • Repetitiveness: A myriad of hacking QTEs don't add to the fun, they just take away from the action.
Score: 4/5
The Swindle is the Watch Dogs we wanted but never got.
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