App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Swap Sword takes two of the most ubiquitous game genres on the App Store–namely match-three games and roguelikes–and smashes them together. In it, you play as a samurai hero who quests through dungeons that are literally just a board of items for you to match. It's a really cool twist on both of these genres, but it's lack of content might make it a tough sell unless you're a dedicated score chaser.
When playing Swap Sword, you are presented with a game board full of items to match, but one of the pieces on the board is your player character. Every turn, you can either swap adjacent items to make a match of three or more objects or opt to move your character in any given direction. The goal of each level is for you to match enough keys to make an exit item appear and then move your character through said exit.
On the board are also enemies, which will move toward your hero and attack between turns. The bulk of Swap Sword's challenge comes from having to fend off these enemies while also reaching the exit before your turn limit expires. If you run out of turns, the game's main antagonist appears and will quickly kill you if you don't reach the exit in time.
Tiles and tribulations
Since each puzzle board in Swap Sword doubles as a dungeon, each tile in the game represents a different item that you can use strategically to your advantage. Alongside the aforementioned enemies and keys strewn about the board are sticks of dynamite, walls, shields, and more.
Also, there are different dungeons in the game which present new tile types, like blocks of ice that slide you across the map and fans that allow you to “wind” enemies to cut down multiple in a row. Not every item's purpose is self-evident, but Swap Sword makes it easy for you to check the features of each tile just by tapping and holding on them to reveal their descriptions.
It took me a few rounds of Swap Sword to really “get” its gameplay and progress past the first couple stages. After a little bit of practice though, I found myself easily moving across levels. Then, before I knew it, the whole experience was over. Throughout any particular playthrough of the game, there are only a dozen or so levels to complete before your score gets totaled.
Unlike traditional roguelikes, Swap Sword doesn't have a particularly long learning curve to it. Also, unlike traditional match-three games, it doesn't have a whole lot of levels. What you're left with is a game that can act as a nice score chase experience, which is fine, but isn't quite what you'd expect considering the genre influences on this game. It's also worth noting that Swap Sword doesn't have any sort of daily challenge, which makes the score chasing aspect of it seem somewhat contingent on getting a good set of procedurally-generated levels on top of performing well.
The bottom line
Swap Sword makes a great first impression, but misses out on a lot of its potential. As a result, it feels like more and more of a disappointment the more time you spend with it. Hopefully it gets additional content in the future. In its current form, Swap Sword is fun, but also rings a little hollow.