The Swindle: A side-scrolling slice of burglary that wants to pilfer Spelunky's crown

Heist cinema is all about the thrill of a perfectly laid plan, executed with style keycards swiped, briefcases artfully swapped. A perfect plan requires a predictable defence, however, and Dan Marshall’s The Swindle isn’t nearly that neat and tidy. A procedurally generated steampunk house-breaker, it’s how Spelunky might roll if it got wasted with Danny Ocean and traded in the whip for a clockwork omni-jack.


Each of The Swindle’s tile-based levels is unique, assembled from scratch every time you ride the drop pod down from your airship lair. There are a few things they all have in common a front and back door, patrolling robot guards and lashings of delicious cash, daubed across floors or squirrelled away in computers but every layout and the distribution of traps and enemies are always thrown together by an algorithm.
It’s how Spelunky might roll if it got wasted with Danny Ocean
Pull A Fast One
Your job is obviously to make it back to your pod with as much loot as possible, using a variety of curious gizmos to avoid or brutalise threats. But where Ocean’s crew might spend weeks pouring over blueprints, budding Swindlers must strategise on the fly. A sound early tactic is to scramble up to the roof, snooping at the interior from safety. Once you’ve got a sense of where the richest rewards are located, you could blow up a wall to bypass defences, use your Steam.exe ability (badumtish) to ghost through searchlights, hack the central security terminal to disable cameras, or whip out your remote detonator to set off a conveniently spawned mine. Gadgets are always welcome in a heist sim, and this one is pleasingly relaxed about their usage there’s no hard limit per item, though you’ll need to worry about cooldown.

Fail a hack or stray into the beam of a watchful automaton, and you’ll set off a level-wide alarm. This starts an invisible, variable countdown to the arrival of the police, who are rather more aggressive in their patrolling flying gunships may pass through walls, much like the ghost in Spelunky. It also triggers a protocol whereby all terminals begin to offload their cash deposits to servers. The result is a mad rush to either the exit or a cruel demise at the hands of an upstanding officerbot. Restarts are instantaneous, but failure is nonetheless keenly felt. After all, you’ll never get to try the same level twice.

Smash And Grab
The game is broken up into six districts, with tougher foes at large in more lucrative areas. Its claim to greatness will depend on how much the conundrums evolve in later districts right now, it’s perhaps a little bit too tempting to just blast through outside walls and abscond with the least well-protected piles of cash. Still, more advanced gadgets such as teleporters and EMP grenades should spur more
imaginative play. As it stands, The Swindle is a barmy original among games with arch-criminal pretensions. It lacks the bombast of a Battlefield Hardline or a PayDay 2, but as far as the element of improvisation is concerned it’s well out in front.

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