I hate being made to rush. I like to take my own sweet time in the doing of all things leisure. Whether it’s having that morning coffee slowly whilst being late for work or taking my time watching episodes of The Walking Dead while avoiding spoilers on twitter; I am the tortoise sticking two fingers up at the hare speeding by. So when a game tells me that there is a time limit in order to complete it, a reaction happens. I get nervous and I feel under pressure, because it feels like being at work with terrifying deadlines looming.

In the past this has put me off many games like Dead Rising. Even timed based missions in big games like GTA make me sweat and question my role in the universe. So as you’ve probably guessed by all my yakking, The Swindle has a time limit element to it. Damn you time!

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You are a thief, or a group of different thieves, in an alternate reality Victorian London. It’s all steampunky, mixing old school weaponry and costumes with wind up computers and robots. You have 100 days to steal as much cash as you can, so you can upgrade your gear to steal more money from posher places and eventually steal a new gadget from Scotland Yard that with reinvent crime as we know it.

The look of the game is really quite elegant. It’s a cartoony 2D world with slices of housing that you wander around with all the neat trimings. The characters are well drawn, and the world and atmosphere is created effectively by Size Five games. It’s like an early eighties children’s cartoon brought to life. The soundtrack is also immersive and holds together tightly with the action.

Now the gameplay is where The Swindle can live or die; stealth is your master. You get thrown straight into a heist with just the basics of a tutorial. You start really underpowered, with no skills to speak of except jump and a swing of your Billy club to knock over coppers. You walk around the area, analyse where the money is at and then break into the dwelling through a door or window, finding the most effective way to do your burgling. But if you die (and you will) you lose all the money you have gained and a precious day has passed you by. So, the big dilemma in The Swindle is do you take the safe path of getting a bit of money then leave straight back up to the airship to bank it all? Or do you take the greedy path and try to risk it all to get the bigger prizes so you reach the final goal faster. It a tough decision to make and that is the crux of the game. I choose always to take the gamble and after being killed many times, I soon lost many, many, days.

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If you decide to start the game again, as I did numerous times, you encounter one of the games unique selling points: each level is procedurally generated. This makes it impossible to learn a level completely if you wish to restart and will keep the game fresh for months to come if you manage to complete it. Or, as I found, it can become maddening because you have no sense of achievement in learning how to play the game and the routes needed to beat it.

With more stolen cash you will be able to buy upgrades. These range from being able to hack computers for more cash, buying a double jump to help you get to higher places or later on in the game, taking control over robots. But here lies the problem, you need these upgrades in order to complete the game, but you don’t know which ones are the most important. It’s very trial and error and the learning process is so slow that by the time you feel you’ve got a handle on the game the time limit kicks in. In one run through I felt I started to play The Swindle properly, but I had only 15 days left to complete it, which was impossible as I was only on level two. So I had to start again, then 3 hours later, after more failure, I started again and it is then when my patience started to wane.

There were times when I was playing a level and I couldn’t steal money or access areas because I hadn’t got the right upgrade, so I had to lose another valuable day. I never felt I was learning anything skill wise that could help me the next time. I was just getting a lucky dip every single time with the procedurally generated level I was given.

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I also felt that the characters were tricky to control. Many a time I couldn’t quite time my attack on a policeman before they turned around and kill me instantly. Jumping across spikes was a nightmare and very unsuccessful. Don’t talk to me about climbing up and down walls. You of course get better at these things, but the frustration of the time limit and the loss of everything you’ve been working towards make the experience more depressing for me every time I played it.

To conclude, I found The Swindle not an enjoyable game to play for the many reasons I have moaned about above. But I also understand that it’s just not my cup of tea, having many elements of gaming that I find upsetting. However the game is very original, beautifully styled and will appeal to gamers who enjoy experiences like Spelunky.

I though, will not be pressured into thinking that timed limit games deliver a unique, rewarding experience. I play to relax, to be entertained and not feel like I am at work striving to hit that deadline.

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