100 days isn’t enough to steal my heart.
The Swindle is a stealth platforming game made up of a series of procedurally generated missions. Over the course of 100 days, you’ll be breaking into buildings with increasingly tight security to rob the owners blind and raise enough money for the heist of a lifetime. As those days go by, you’ll also be spending money on upgrades that give you new tools, more physical abilities, and faster hacking skills to make it easier to siphon as much cash from unguarded computer terminals as possible.
Each day consists of a single heist with the objective of stealing as much as you can before getting caught and escaping—hopefully without being spotted. Every heist is constructed at random so that no two days are ever quite the same. Finishing a heist unscathed is a difficult and demanding task that will take a lot of patience and planning. Playing patiently doesn’t mean playing it safe though; trying to cheese each day by taking small piles of cash and running out as quick as possible will leave you too poor to buy enough upgrades to keep up with the constantly improving security.
By forcing players to take risks and try to steal as much money as possible, The Swindle guarantees that each day is exciting. Tensions are high when you’re frantically hacking into a computer as quickly as possible and praying the nearby guard doesn’t get close enough to spot you. The best moments in The Swindle are near-misses where you just barely pull off a crazy stunt you weren’t sure could work.
Unfortunately, while The Swindle has some great ideas, it struggles a lot to execute on them. Those exciting moments of awesome platforming precision feel really good, but it’s much more common to fall into a guard’s line of sight and be instantly shot to death because a button input didn’t work. As if buggy controls weren’t enough, the physics of moving around feel somewhat off. My first instinct when starting The Swindle was to check gameplay videos online to make sure the player character is actually supposed to move around the way I was. Games that are supposed to be brutally difficult need to have incredibly responsive controls, but playing The Swindle feels more like you’re suggesting your character go somewhere instead of moving them yourself.
Theoretically, failing a heist should teach you more about what you did wrong. This happens occasionally, but the sheer number of technical problems left me struggling to figure out what I could’ve done differently. I fell off a ledge into a spike pit even though my character seemed to have both feet on the ground. I couldn’t knock out a guard before being spotted because the range of my attack didn’t actually match the length of my weapon. In one instance I even got spotted by a guard through a closed door because, for some reason, he could see through the closed door after turning around before he started moving. I died so often that I had to start the entire 100 day cycle over multiple times before I could even get to to the second stage of missions before I was 50 days in, and the early days where you don’t have any substantial upgrades get old quickly.
It’s a huge shame that The Swindle misses the mark so hard on its execution. The tools, upgrades, and challenges are all really fun to experiment with. There’s a great game somewhere within the mess, but you’ll probably stop having fun way before you manage to pull off the heist of a lifetime.