Part roguelike, part match-3, Swap Sword does a fine job of consolidating two beloved mobile gaming genres and turning it into a compelling mix. Its upgrade system could perhaps do with some enhancing, but as a fun way to spend some time, it scratches the itch. For a little while, at least.
There’s no story in sight here. Instead, your focus is solely on destroying an army of bad guys while moving onto the next stage. Each screen has a number of different icons, each offering something pivotal to your experience. Match green gems, for instance, and you gain them to use to buy skill upgrades. Dynamite causes an explosion in a straight line, while shields give you some form of defense. Keys help you get a step nearer to the next stage, with a set number unlocking the exit door. Elsewhere, matching up your enemies wipes them out en masse, but it’s not your only form of attack.
Working much like a roguelike, you can move your character around the screen, potentially matching things up this way. Most importantly, you need to move your guy to the exit door that appears once you’ve collected a sufficient number of keys. Also, if an enemy gets too close, they’ll continue to attack you until your death. That means offense is the best form of defense, as you do whatever you can to fend off attack. After a time you can unlock other tile types too, which can be used to take out your enemies, such as with a windmill style attack. You soon learn what works best in which scenario.
There’s a lot going on here, but thanks to Swap Sword being turn based, you don’t have to react too quickly. You can take your time to plot a few moves ahead if you so wish, but an instinctive reaction is often all that’s needed.
Once you’ve completed a level, you’re given the option of picking out an upgrade. Some upgrades are passive, such as offering you an extra heart of health, while others allow you to use abilities while competing. Those abilities cost green gems so you have another reason to keep pursuing them. You can only keep three upgrades at any one time, meaning things feel quite restrictive, but at least you’ve got the option to mould your character into the sort of fighter you are. Juggling and prioritizing might be tricky, but it’s worth knowing whether to focus on defense or offense overall.
As you progress, more challenges emerge — and trickier enemies too. You might get stronger alongside that, but it’s a difficult path to pursue. Oftentimes you can’t help but feel weaker against the opposition, and strategy plays a far more substantial role than simply having the best upgrades.
That’s also where Swap Sword’s issues emerge. You never feel as tough as you should be. You’re always one step behind your opponents, feeling like you’re strongly restricted by the upgrade paths available to you.
Swap Sword is still quite fun, but with that lack of refinement, it’s one step away from greatness. You’ll find yourself wishing it had more going for it than it does. As a simple Match-3/roguelike, it’ll entertain you for a little while, but don’t be surprised if you end up longing for more from your experience.