Set in a kingdom besieged by demons who’ve escaped imprisonment in a magic crystal, SwapQuest takes players on a journey as either a prince or princess. The goal is to retrieve a magic sword and reassemble the prison crystal in order to lock the demons away once more. This is accomplished by guiding the chosen royal through a series of twelve fields (and four boss fights) by swapping tiles around to create a path around dangers, or straight into them if it’s time to farm experience.
SwapQuest‘s mechanics are deeper and more complex than the premise would suggest. In addition to creating a path by moving squares with 2, 3 or 4 exits on them, the player has to direct their avatar along the path that’s created. The royal will walk on their own, but they need to be pushed in a direction every time they have more than one choice. They can also reverse direction or stop, so the player is able to keep them from blindly wandering into danger – which they otherwise would. Essentially, the player has to use two entirely different skillsets at any given moment – at times it pushes this title to the very edge of what can fairly be called ‘casual’ gameplay.
Working in classic 16-bit style, SwapQuest‘s devs have put a huge amount into each level. Every one has a completely different set of monsters and background art, while also managing to include unique twists. A ‘lost in the desert’ level constantly changes the direction of travel, the ‘burning city’ has players pushing back fires, and a ‘dark mine’ forces players to shatter glowing crystals that spread through the level, lighting their way. Then the campaign wraps up with a challenge tower that sets aside the constant treadmill effect and replaces it with a series of trap rooms which demonstrate that the game’s systems work just as well in straight puzzle structure as they do in the rest of the action-heavy campaign.