The heart of any good puzzle game are the mechanics. Everything else is secondary. With Swipe Quest, a 2048-esque, grid-based puzzle game, Polish game development studio Evil Indie Games overlooks this essential point: what should be secondary is pushed to the forefront, relegating the all-important mechanics to a forlorn, backstage role.
The game-mechanics are certainly intriguing, and dare I say it, possibly addictive: While you play a monster-slaying hero, you have no real control over this hero’s actions. He (or she; I played with a ‘he’) sits in the center of a 5×5 grid, unmoving, and perhaps, uncaring. Instead, swiping the screen moves the tiles around your hero. You’re trying to get tiles with valuable resources (most importantly, swords, shields and gold) to collide with your central hero, collecting them for use against monsters. The game deals with killing these monsters in the same way: simply get a tile occupied by a monster to collide with your hero, and if you’ve collected enough swords, you spend them to kill it. The catch: if two tiles containing the same type of monster or resource collide, they merge, forcing you to keep an eye on the board, lest that pesky goblin with 8 health that you’ve been avoiding merge with its twin to become a 16-health monstrosity.
As an RPG, the game fails completely. “RPG” is already a term the industry tends to throw around far too loosely. Many popular games are given the moniker simply because they let you gain levels, choose skills and collect loot; there’s no real role being played, no real character-driven plot. Even under the loosest definition, however, Swipe Quest barely qualifies as an RPG. You make exactly one decision about your character throughout the entire game: your character class, a choice which you can blindly make with almost no change to your gameplay experience. The only difference between the classes is the number of swords and shields, and the amount of health you begin with. Even upon leveling up, all you gain is more swords or shields, transforming the traditional “AH-HA!” moment of digital RPG’s into a humdrum affair.
When it comes to plot, the “EPIC storyline” that the game description promises amounts to randomly generated quests in the vein of “Collect seven shields” or “Kill five skeletons”. Sure, there’s some attempt at flavor text, but it reads as unimaginative and cliché (“We need better weapons to defend our village, can you bring us some?”). In fact, the annoying bits of brightly colored text and image that constitute the quests only serve to interrupt the fast-paced gameplay afforded by the grid and swipe mechanic.
Visually, the game is lackluster. One can do a lot with simple graphics, but Swipe Quest…bores me. The green background covered with regularly spaced dots to suggest grass is drab. The fact that a goblin with a strength of one and another with a strength of 10 look identical except for the numbers beside them is disappointing. The redundant text that the game keeps spitting out at you is irritating. Why do I need to be told in writing which direction I moved every time I swipe? Add to that mix a poorly-thought-out UI, with ill-chosen text colors and positioning and you have a visual style that’s unremarkable at best.
Finally, an annoyingly buggy system (swipes frequently move the grid in the wrong direction, leading to a maddening death), and badly translated text (I’ve seen numerous grammar errors and awkward phrasing) lend an unfinished, half-baked air to the game. Evil Indie Games would do well to build off some of the intriguing elements of their game, and leverage the strengths of their core mechanic for their next title. Had Swipe Quest simply been a polished puzzle involving colored dots, I would have loved it. In its current state, it falls completely flat.
What could be a sleek, confident puzzle-behemoth, is instead a timid, half-baked RPG-mutant.