Picture a classic 1940s/50s summer holiday in the UK. Clear blue skies, warm, calm days, and people enjoying bathing at the beach, or lounging by a pool. This rather romantic rose-tinted vision of the past has been realised by Lozange Lab. Swim Out is a strategic, turn-based puzzle game set in a picturesque world of a summer at the poolside. You are in control of a swimmer who dons a blue swimming costume. You must navigate the pool, avoiding other swimmers, and synchronised bathers in red. You must collect power-ups, to avoid the obstacles and complete the stages. If you touch, or are touched by anybody else using the pool, then it’s level failed, and you must begin again.
Set across 8 worlds, which comprises 100 stages. You begin with a gentle introduction to the game mechanics. This then ramps up to be a considerable challenge quickly. Patience and a logical mindset are required to progress in this title. Each of your “opponents” that you’ll face vary in how they move. Some will move after you complete your turn, and others will delay their progress. You soon learn about each “enemy”, and will create a plan that reacts to them. I liken this to a game of watery chess. Make sure you plan several steps ahead, or be prepared to start the level again. At times, the only way to progress is to move backwards. This felt counterproductive, but I soon realised that I needed to be open minded to succeed.
Once the power-ups are introduced, you see that more pools are added to each level. As the difficulty increases, you must collect a boost from one pool, and use it in another. This helps you to overcome any obstacles and progress with the puzzle. This took a bit of getting used to, especially when no explanation is given to how each power-up works. Trial and error is one of your main tools when a new game mechanism is added. This made me feel quite frustrated, especially when I failed on a level and was forced to restart. Lozange Lab could have produced a short cinematic cutscene, or a guide on how to use each item you pick up. This would have given a clear explanation and would have prevented repeated failings.
If you get stuck on a level, trust me, this will happen a lot. Don’t fear, you are free to select any of the 100 stages when you want. This was a great idea, as it still allowed you to progress even if you could not solve any problems.
Set in a 2D perspective with an uncluttered User Interface, Swim Out is fantastic to look at. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not AAA graphics, and Hollywood blockbuster cinematic cutscenes. It’s simple, warm, and represents a classic vision of a perfect British summer. The vintage bathing costumes give this a retro feel. And the choice of colour and tone gives the feeling of a sun drenched outdoor pool. The art style used for the models reminded me of early versions of the comic books Dandy and Beano. Though there is nothing outstanding about the graphics, they made me warm and fuzzy. I liked them immediately.
The audio emphasises the nature of the theme. Seagulls caw and yell in the background. The sound of limbs splashing through the water is heard at every move. The sound effects are great, transporting you to that day out at the seaside. This is then matched up with a calm and floaty tune that creates a relaxed and serene atmosphere. At times, the audio was at odds with the madness that was ensuing in the pool. Swimmers all battling for their bit of space, and you are desperately trying to find a way through. It was anything but relaxing.
When I play a turn-based puzzle title, I want to know that the controls will not let me down. I want them to be simple, allowing me to focus on solving the problem at hand. Fortunately, Swim Out couldn’t be much easier. You have one button to use items, and either the d-pad, or analogue stick to move. It couldn’t be any more straightforward, I wish the puzzles were as easy to master.
I struggle with replay value on any puzzle title. Once you’ve solved a puzzle once, there is little reason to return. Most developers don’t add a NG+ mode, or push alternative challenges such as speedruns. Swim Out hasn’t followed suit. It offers an incentive to keep playing once you’ve finished. Some levels will keep you trying for hours, planning and failing repeatedly. New gameplay mechanics are added regularly. So you’re never truly comfortable with how each stage will pan out. After Chapter 1, the developers added multiple goals for each stage. Collecting stars, and exiting the pool in limited moves was some that I experienced. You can attempt to mark these off as you go, but I’d recommend aiming for one goal at each attempt. I’ll admit I missed this part of the game and had to be told by the Lozange Lab how to find them. So you get the best out of your playing time, use the B button to see the alternative objectives. With 100 levels to play through, it represents good value for money. It hasn’t got the easiest achievement list, and you must succeed at every level to get the 100% status. This is a tough ask, and it will take a considerable amount of time to achieve.
A game being set in a swimming pool is very unusual. If you then add the puzzle genre to the mix, most gamers will declare that they are out. I’m glad that I’ve tried this, as I discovered a; fun, frustrating and difficult puzzle title. Though my brain could only cope with playing it in short bursts, this will be one I return to until I finish it. Now, the important question, do I recommend it? Yes, it’s like puzzling at the beach in the 1950s, and totally glorious. The only thing missing are the characters from an Enid Blyton novel, and a delicious high tea. It’s time to grab your swimming bloomers. Nostalgic infused swimming has never been such fun!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Swim Out Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Swimming is relaxing, that is until you dip your toe into the water of Swim Out. A nostalgia infused puzzle game that transports you to a British summer.
- Colours and tones remind you of a summer’s day.
- The audio supports the theme perfectly.
- A steady, yet challenging difficulty curve.
- Easy controls to master.
- Additional level goals, increases the replay value.
- Some puzzles may be too tough.
- Lack of power-up explanation leads to trial and error and failure.