Size Five Games has launched The Swindle a fair few times already, as it came first to PC, PS3, PS4, and PS Vita, before landing on Xbox One and then the Wii U. Since then, however, the Switch has solidly established itself as the nurturing mother of indie games, so it makes sense for The Swindle to get another burst of life on Nintendo's console, and since it seemed to slip by us in the night on its first outings, we took The Swindle for a spin on Nintendo's hybrid console to finally see if it stole our hearts.
At the start of the game you're told that Scotland Yard is establishing a new surveillance system codenamed Devil's Basilisk, and as a thief in this 19th-century Steampunk alternate reality, you don't really want this surveillance stopping your criminal career dead in its tracks. This means you have 100 days to sneak into Scotland Yard and steal the technology so that you can continue to commit crime in peace.
You can't just walk in the door of Scotland Yard willy-nilly though, you'll need to advance through six levels of security before you can do that, unlocking each with the money you steal from the ones before. Each level of security essentially translates to one difficulty level, and the goal in each heist is to get in, get as much money as possible, and get out without dying. The catch is that each time you take part in a heist that constitutes one day, whether you fail or succeed, and so you essentially have 100 tries to get into the last level and complete it.
It's a roguelite sort of experience, as each time you go in the 2D levels are randomly generated, with the only guarantee being that the levels will get harder the further up the security chain you go. The point of the money is also to buy upgrades as well as security clearance, whether that be the ability to hack computers to get more money, unleash a cloud to mask your footsteps, or just have more power for when you whack people upside the head.
The game strikes a very fine balance with the money that really makes you question every penny you spend. Of course you'll need a lot to get into each security level and ultimately advance, but if you're wildly underpowered and don't have a lot of useful gear, getting money in each level is going to be a tough ask, especially since death means that you lose all your money and waste a day.
Speaking of wastefulness, there are so many upgrades to choose from at such a high cost that these really need to be chosen with care, since a lot of them grant more money, but plenty also have tactical advantages whether that be sneaking or in combat. Some even let you blast through the levels to get to previously inaccessible regions.
The visual style is probably where the game shines brightest, although we don't mean literally since it takes place in a smoggy, dismal steampunk London. Instead, it's this murky aesthetic that drives the experience forward, throwing new robotic enemies and wild gadgets our way as we get deeper into our plan. Even your base is an airship, which you can upgrade with all kinds of gizmos to help you out.
With regards to the basic controls, everything is really simple but incredibly hard to master, as you're only really using the Y button to smack people with your melee attack, you're also opening doors, using gadgets, and jumping up walls (you can stick to them and slide down, Mario style). When the game then piles enemies into a room like it's going out of fashion, with the alarm going off if any of them spot you and with the money in the computers decreasing the longer the alarm's on, it's not just a case of jumping in and smacking foes. Oh, and did we mention it's one-hit kill?
It's difficult for the uninitiated for sure, which is perhaps why we thought it would've been nice to have more of a tutorial than we got. All we received was one screen on the story and then we went into our airship, dropping into a heist right away. Because of this, we had to restart the campaign a few times as we worked out what to do, but this could've just been negated with a few explanations at the game's opening.
Marlon Brando once said that he didn't like to be swindled in A Streetcar Named Desire, but if he was around in 2018 perhaps he would've liked The Swindle. After all, it's got a healthy mix of simple controls within a challenging concept, it offers a fine balance between saving and spending your money, and there's a lot of variety in terms of what you can unlock. Considering it's procedurally-generated nature and roguelite loop there's also a lot of replayability, so Size Five Games isn't swindling you with this game in the slightest.