The Swindle

Break in, whack the security, hack the computers, steal all the loot. Somewhere in between (and quite often) try not to curse at your TV when you die for the umpteenth time in a row. And finally stop Scotland Yard from unleashing an all-seeing security system (codenamed the Devil’s Basilisk), because that would really put the kibosh on your life of crime. Oh, and you only have 100 days to do it. That’s the premise behind this indie gem, The Swindle, out for PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and Wii U.

It sounds simple, and it’s really quite a lot of fun, but don’t expect a walk in the park. You’re going to have to use all the skills at your disposal, along with scouting out alternate entrances (sometimes making your own… via a well placed bomb) and occasionally just taking the upper road and walking away. Why? Because in this procedurally generated world, sometimes you’re faced with your own Kobayashi Maru – it may be more worth it to leave half (or 97%) of the cash and walk away with your life and decency intact, rather than to die pennyless and let your replacement take over.

The Swindle has a great feel to it, thanks in great part to the game’s art style. That was the first thing to draw me in, I loved this rendition of a steampunk London. It’s simple characters pack a lot of heart, even the robotic guards look like they’ve been pieced together in some cybernetic security factory somewhere. For the most part your character moves, jumps, wall slides and hacks computers with grace, but there were repeated times where I would jump and attack, only to find that I somehow attacked in the opposite direction to how I was pushing. This usually led to all sorts of alarms going off, and me running for the door. Also, if you’re trying to hack a downed drone and it’s right next to a door you’ll likely also open the door – which tends to put you in plain view of the guard on the other side. Queue the alarm sirens and the police!

Though you’ll initially start the game with no skills, except being able to clumsily open unlocked doors, pick up cash if it’s laying right in front of you, and be able to halfheartedly swing your billy club, every time you score some loot you can buy skill upgrades. I gave an uneasy laugh reading the descriptions on the upgrades – they’re going to remove my eyes and replace them with cameras? Cutting off my legs to replace them with cybernetic components? *shiver* They each have something humorous and interesting to read, and they fit, for sure – and though being a bit macabre, I thought they were funny.

There are a couple priced low that everyone needs and you can pick up in the first level – computer hacking skills, double jumping skills… steampunk girls only like guys who have skills! Gosh! After that it’s up to your play style. I would recommend getting the first two hacking skills before you progress on to the second zone, otherwise you won’t be able to open any of the front doors. Also, you can unlock computer bugs that can be planted at hacked workstations. They continue to siphon funds straight into your bank account, usually at the rate of £30-50/second. Go ahead, plant a few bugs and then just go take a pee break, make yourself a sandwich, or some other menial task. If you’re lucky it’ll just keep raking in the money. That 15 minute shower with 3 concurrent bugged computers could rack up £108000, not bad for an honest days work.

If I had to recommend another skill totally worth saving up your cash for, it’d be drone hacking. Just like in the real world, a drone in The Swindle comes equipped with a camera. Unlike in the real world though, they usually also come standard with a machine gun. Some just give a hefty electric shock, others explode. Early on in the game when your baton swings through the dingy air and cracks into the delicate housing of one of these bad boys it goes flying to the ground, and you walk over it victoriously. But after unlocking this skill, yes, you still smash the heck out of them… but instead of walking past them, you can hack the programming and it’ll become friendly. Much like a subservient guard dog, it’ll follow you around and attack it’s old allies. The loads of upgrades, which allow for differing styles of play, is a big boost to how much I enjoyed this game.

Computers systems, drones, doors, and security systems are all hacked by means of a QTE (quick time event) that prompts you to press a direction on your controller. It’s okay if you press the wrong direction on the most basic of these, but messing up when hacking a mine and you’ll explode. If you were hacking a security system, it’ll alert the police.

There is quite a variety of enemies, as well, from the basic robot guard on the first level who just paces back and forth and is easily convinced to play dead with a baton to the back of the head, to bigger, beefier guards on the next level who will take a couple hits before he drops. Then there are the flying drones that were mentioned. On and after the third level you start to run into some droids wearing gas masks – I didn’t realize it at first, but if you hit these guys they release a cloud of gas which will cloud your vision. Sure, you could still hack a computer just by guessing the controller sequence, but the cloud is also poison and it will kill you shortly. So run for the escape! The other enemies worth mentioning are the police bots that come around shortly after the alarm goes off. It’s not worth trying to kill them, I haven’t found a way to do that – though I haven’t tried a bomb yet. They’ll just continue attacking and soon you’ll have the flying police cruiser with Gatling gun to deal with, so best to just run.

Overall, despite minor bugs I found The Swindle was a ton of fun to play, with extensive upgrades, and random generated levels. We definitely recommend playing it. Though take your time and make sure your skills are built up before rushing into the later levels, or like me,  you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of a rage quit.

Bigfoot has been playing video games for as long as he can remember, he was weaned straight from the bottle on to a Commodore 64 and hasn't looked back since. He enjoys sampling beer and hanging out with his family. A couple of his all-time favorite games are Earthbound (SNES) and Fallout 2 (PC).

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