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Swim Out Review: Attack of the Synchronized Swimmers

by GeekyAdminNovember 8, 2017
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Swim Out Review: Attack of the Synchronized Swimmers
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Swim Out is a tile-based puzzle game where you play as a woman attempting to navigate her way around the other occupants of a pool in order to get out at the ladder. The game is about as simple as the premise makes it sound, though it does manage to wring a lot of ideas out of this seemingly simple premise — and execute them decently at that.

It’s a Small Pool, but It Isn’t Shallow

Swim Out has no story or anything like that, as it’s all about the gameplay here, and such a thing is unimportant in a basic puzzle game like this. Despite this, there are occasional visuals when you beat a level that show you making your way back to a lounge chair, sometimes with a cup of coffee or a croissant. So I choose to believe that this is the story of a lady who was nagged into signing up for a synchronized swimming class by some pushy friends but isn’t all that interested, and who is just trying to escape from the class in the middle of a routine so she can relax and take a nap in the sun. 

It may seem like an odd observation to make, coming up with my own story for something so simple, but that right there is the point. Swim Out really is a very simple game, and while there is some quality gameplay and puzzle design here, there isn’t all that much I can say about the game’s story. 

What I can say is that it’s a rather well-made puzzle game. It has you occupying a single square as a swimmer, and every time you move to a new spot on the grid, everything else moves as well, in a sort of turn-based format. You have to plan your moves ahead of time in order to account for when and where certain objects or people will move, keep track of timing and numbers, and ensure that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure, sometimes five moves in advance.

 This is a small level early on, but nonetheless, timing is still key here.

The gameplay is easy enough to grasp — though it does get much harder as you progress — and does a good job of pacing out its new mechanics piecemeal in order to keep the game fresh without overwhelming the player with new rules to learn too quickly.

Something I thought was especially neat about Swim Out was its complete lack of dialogue. All instructions are given to the player using imagery such as arrows and numbers rather than overt instructions, allowing the player to slowly come to grips with the mechanics themselves, which I feel suits the simple premise well. Plus, iconography-based interface design is just interesting. 

While I’m talking about the presentation, it would be remiss of me to not mention the aesthetics. The game has a very simple art style, with a cartoonish style and bright, beach resort colors splashed on top of realistic-looking locations and characters resembling those from a safety sign you’d see telling you not to run or dive off the shallow end.

The music is very tranquil and relaxing, sounding something like Japanese meditation music you might hear at a spa, with very soft and mellow tones. The mumbled background chatter reminiscent of an actual crowded pool playing in the background is a nice touch as well.

From Kiddie Pool to Adult Swim

My biggest issues with Swim Out have to do with its learning curve and some of the mechanics that it slowly introduces. Swim Out is a game that starts out easy and gains momentum with its difficulty rather quickly. It does take some time for the game to get really challenging, but after only a few introductory levels, the game really ups the ante.

While the addition of usable items and the ability to keep track of water currents that slow you add additional layers of strategy, other elements seem only to exist to hinder you for the sake of difficulty. Something like the kickboard, for example, doubles your size and frankly makes turning a drawn-out pain in the ass, and oftentimes levels are designed in ways that force you to use it.

This is only the first level of the second chapter, and it took me much longer than anything from the first chapter. Difficulty ramps up smoothly but quickly.

The overall problem with the difficulty is that it tends to drag levels out at times. Coming to grips with new mechanics and having to try levels over is par for the course, but given the relatively small size of the game, the jump from, say, one-star difficulty to two-star difficulty is a sudden and noticeable leap.The difficulty curve is, like I said, curved reasonably, but the small scale of the experience means these difficulty jumps occasionally hamper the pacing and, by extension, the overall experience. Going from something you’re used to or find easy to something much more daunting can lead to frustration at times.

Due to this, the relaxed atmosphere and mellow visuals don’t really fit with the amount of stress and critical thinking that go into some of the later, more difficult levels. I will admit that the strategic approach to the gameplay is a core strength of the game, and a consistent difficulty curve is something that all developers should strive for, but this game can get pretty challenging pretty quickly. 

In Conclusion

Swim Out is a surprisingly decent puzzle game with some neat ideas and an overall relaxed feeling. While it is well made and fun enough, it’s held back by how simple it is at its core as well as a few frustrating moments brought on by the game’s unique yet unfamiliar mechanics. I want to clarify that when I call this game a “basic puzzle game” or a “simple puzzle game,” by no means is that meant to be an insult. It is a pretty basic and simple game, but it still does what it sets out to do fairly well, with enough unique ideas for it to feel like its own thing, even if it doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well.

Swim Out is available now on Steam and mobile devices. You can watch a trailer for the game below:

 

 Note: {Review copy provided by Lozange Lab}

About The Author
GeekyAdmin

I’m a normal person who has taken the time to learn technical skills. I have a normal social life, and usually the only way to tell I’m a geek is if I inform you of my skills.

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