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Swap French development house, Microids, are probably the last people you'd expect to come up with the year's most fiendishly addictive puzzler. The Gallic team can usually be found designed computer car simulations for the gigantic Renault car company rather than programming one of the most infuriating brainstrainers of recent times.

The basic gameplay is incredibly simple. A board, consisting of a number of titles of varying shapes, size and colours, has to be cleared by swapping the tiles around. When two or more tiles of the same colour come into contact with each other, they disappear and the player moves on to perform similar moves until the entire board is cleared. That's the theory, but in practice it's a lot harder than it sounds.

The game is essentially split into two halves: a training mode and a multi-level competition. The training mode allows you to become familiar with the game's many options and experiment by designing your own levels. The various options include the size, shape and colour of each piece as well as a time-limit for each level (if you're feeling particularly masochistic). Best of all is the avalanche option which will send tiles which have become isolated cascading down the screen until they bump into another one. Hopefully, some will match and thus disappear, and the process will continue until no other matching pairs are left. Another useful 'cheat' is a cache of supplementary tiles which can be picked up and repositioned next to shapes which have become isolated or a proving difficult to shift. You can select both the avalanche and supplementary tiles options to come into play at the start of a game or when you've accumulated enough points.

Once you've become familiar with the game's many quirks, it's into the game proper in which the computer devises level after level of devilishly clever screens for you to clear. Each one gets progressively harder, with the player aiming to score a set number of points and stars or wipe out all the shapes. All the options available in the training mode are present at different times and different combinations. One minute you could be facing a screen full of tiny multi-coloured squares with an avalanche option but no supplementary tiles, and in the next level come across a screen packed with three colours of tri-angles and a time-limit to boot.
Incidentally, for some mathematical reason, I probably can't even start to understand, the last combination is the hardest of the lot to clear!

Swap is a belter of a game, smartly presented, with functional graphics and some excellent samples of smashing plates. Every time a number of shapes disappear, one of several crockery breaking sounds escapes from the Amiga, which is highly amusing if you think of the lengths that the programmers must have gone to get such samples.

Unfortunately, the game is a bit easy at first. If you complete a level quickly, you're allowed to skip subsequent stages. I raced through to level 96 within twenty minutes of picking it up, but after that things did progressively harder and thus more rewarding.

With a staggering 999 levels, Swap should come up with a public health warning attached to it…
Dan Slingsby

CU Amiga, August 1991, pp.72-73

PALACE £25.99
Absorbing and addictive puzzler – unputdownable!