You can die here, or you can do what you have to, to go on.
The Swapper is a puzzle platformer created by indie developer Facepalm Studios, in which the player is an unnamed astronaut who must explore the wreckage of the space station Theseus by manipulating a cloning device called The Swapper, that not only can create clones of yourself, but can "swap" your consciousness into the clones you created.
...Or can it? The device is not easily understood, and unravelling the mysteries behind it and why the crew of the space station died are both one and the same goal, and not everything is as it seems.
The player uses the Swapper to solve puzzles and restore a derelict space station so that you can escape, and many puzzles require you to send clones of yourself to their death while you swap your own consciousness into a new body while the old one gets crushed from falling from too great a height.
The models and environments are also created with clay and everyday items, giving it a Claymation look while still moving at 60 FPS.
- Alpha Bitch: Dennett, who refuses to believe the Swapper can switch and transfer souls and who keeps trying to take control of The Scavenger.
- Apocalyptic Log: The Emergency Evac logs you can find in memory terminals.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The doctors and the original scavenger, all in one body, use the Swapper one final time to force themselves into the Head Watcher to see if they can "force" him to stop killing them. All it does is make them part of the Watcher Hive Mind, and therefore, they become Watchers themselves. Whether they are content with this, or if its a Fate Worse than Death, is unclear, but the dialogue of all the watchers on the space station changes when this happens, to reflect the new minds inside them.
- Anti-Villain: The Watchers are friendly, cheerful and inquisitive. In fact, the only reason they're antagonists at all is because they emit a kind of natural radiation/poison in the air that kills humans if they've been removed from their spots on the planets surface.
- Arc Words: You can die here, or you can do what you have to to go on.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Watchers. As far as humans can tell, they are space rocks with no organs or moving parts of any kind. But they are alive, and immortal to the point that they have no grasp on the concept of death or Cessation of Existence, to the point they don't realize they killed the crew.
- Body Surf: The Swapper lets you swap places with the clones you create. Or invade beings you have not.
- Brain in a Jar: Dennett and Chalmers used the Swapper to force themselves into preserved brains in order to survive, trapped for over a century.
- Cloning Blues: Heavily discussed to a disturbing effect. The game brings up the same questions about continuity of memory vs. true continuity of consciousness as Soma, with it being left ambiguous as to which one the Swapper actually does (with the possibility that it is simply the former, as Dennett believes, being one of the game's key sources of horror.)
- Complete Immortality: The Watchers are hypothesized to have lived much, much longer than humans.
- Their immortality is so complete that they can't even comprehend the concept of death. When the humans that started being able to communicate with the Watchers start dying, the Watchers are confused and scared that voices are starting to disappear, and one of the endings has the concept of death being explained to them.
- Cosmic Horror Story: You're stranded on a space station that seems to be completely deserted and full of strange alien rocks; it's your mission to find out why.
- Deadpan Snarker: Dennett, especially against Chalmers as the two fight over ethics, souls, and science.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The clones you make will die, whether it's by falling a great height, getting crushed by doors, or passing through a beam of white light that erases all clones in the room.
- Despair Event Horizon: In the end, the rescue team decides to abandon the main character because she is Touched by Vorlons and swiftly dying, leaving her with two brutal options, to commit suicide or steal the body of a rescue worker and leave her old body to die.
- Developers' Foresight: Heading to command before disengaging the three solar panels allows you to bump into the other astronaut as they work on landing the ship.
- Once you get all 124 orbs and head to the bridge, every Watcher in the station changes its dialogue after the Astronaut, Chalmers and Dennett merge with the Head Watcher.
- Downer Ending: Both of them. The player character either commits suicide or steals a rescuer's body. The consequences of the latter are unexplored, but based on the other rescuers' dialogue, they're likely to be severe. Regardless of which option you choose, the only Theseus survivors are left in an ambiguous level of survival that may or may not be positive from their perspective.
- Driven to Suicide: In the ending where you choose to stay marooned on the planet, your only option is to jump to a massive bottomless pit to your death, listening to the Watchers' comments as they try to understand what death is and why you are attempting it.
- One of the minds in the Scavenger's body appears to attempt this with a giant set of gears, but presumably one of the others stops her (the lights go out, but we see the screen static that indicates a personality shift.) Most likely it was the Scavenger herself attempting suicide after being driven nuts by the other two voices in her head; and in the end she's the one who pulls the trigger on the swapper to put them into the Head Watcher out of desperation.
- Expendable Clone: Some puzzles even force you to kill clones to advance. There's no avoiding it.
- Friendly Enemy: The Watchers' dialog is sweet and friendly. Their nature is so separate from the physical world that they spend their time struggling to understand basic physics such as physical matter and space. They have no idea they killed the population of the ship because they don't know what death is.
- Gravity Screw: About halfway through the game, gravity-altering panels are introduced, and the puzzles get even more mind-bending. There are also sections that take place in zero-G.
- Hive Mind: The Watchers, which they refer to as a "great chain".
- How Unscientific!: Dennett can't stand the thought of the idea of a "soul" or that the Swapper "swaps souls about."
- Metroidvania: The game allows the player to explore the space station fully and collect orbs to power up consoles to unlock new areas, all in a 2D space environment with large doors and elevator lifts.
- Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: The voice over your radio gives you contradictory instructions, and generally acts unstable. It's because she's actually three people in one body.
- Once More, with Clarity!: Near the beginning, you hear one side of a conversation over your radio: "What you're telling me isn't possible. <muffled speech> Tell me who I just ejected into space." Much later, you find the security records, and get the complete message.
- Our Souls Are Different: Heavily discussed and debated between Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Dennett.
- And later, The Watchers discuss this too.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The nature of The Swapper and The Watchers has put Dennett and Chalmers at each other's throats about the nature of each, and the idea of the human consciousness for some time. Dennett is The Spock, scoffing at the idea of a Soul, while Chalmers is more idealist, believing "a soul is not just a brain." And they've been at it for over a century.
- Samus Is a Girl: The player is the first clone of the female scavenger.
- Sentient Cosmic Force: The Watchers are rocks with no moving parts or organs of any kind, but can communicate with each other and are very much immortal.
- Shout-Out: To real life philosophers Daniel Dennett and David Chalmers. And the Ship of Theseus is a famous philosophy problem: if you replace pieces of a thing, one by one, when (if ever) does it cease to be the thing you started with?
- Silent Protagonist: Why the protagonist doesn't speak is a mystery, but it is suggested that since swapping causes memory loss, the protagonist (who is a clone) may not have anything useful to say because of her wiped mind.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: When discussing the ideas of human consciousness, Dennett is cynical and Chalmers is an idealist.
- Space Is Noisy: Averted in free space segments, other than a justifiable "thud" from firing the Swapper or bumping into objects.
- Talking to Themself: Dennett, Chalmers and the Scavenger all end up in the same body, bickering among themselves.
- Touched by Vorlons: Hearing the Watchers in one's head was the indication to the crew they were dying.
- Tomato in the Mirror: You are playing as the first clone of a lone female scavenger using the Swapper for the first time, and are therefore proof that the Swapper clones you have been killing have their own consciousness. The game starts when you are first created and tossed out in an Escape Pod.
- Tsundere: The female scavenger seems to be this, jumping back and forth between helpful, condescending, and aggressive. It's because she has the minds of three different people inside her.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Two female scientists, Dennett and Chalmers, as well as an unnamed female astronaut.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The humans and Watchers mutually cannot understand each other.
- Your Days Are Numbered: According to the console logs, the entire staff of Theseus start hearing the thoughts of The Watchers and realize too late that listening to a Watcher will soon result in death. More unfortunately, the protagonist was listening to them the entire time, sealing the protagonist's fate.