Get into the swing of Sway!
There are games that just feel good to play, and Sway is one of them. Moving through the stages requires you to alternate between your character’s left and right hands, which are intuitively controlled by your own left and right thumbs. It’s a bit awkward to get used to at first, but once you get a handle on it you’ll be able to make your way from one end of a stage to another with a speedy rhythm. There’s a fair bit of technique to it, but almost anyone can learn it given enough time.
Getting around the stages is easy enough at first once you’ve gotten the hang of things, but the game soon starts to demand a bit more precision in your movements. You’ll still get stretches where you can swing carefree, but they’re split up with clever tests of timing and nerves. The later stages in each set are extremely challenging, even with generous checkpoints strewn about. Just getting to the goal is demanding enough, but if you’re trying to find the keys needed to rescue a friend, you’ll really have your work cut out for you.
Keys tend to be hidden off the beaten path, along with many other secret areas. Sometimes you need to fling yourself in seemingly empty directions to find pieces of platform to cling on to. That exploration element requires you to slow down and observe your surroundings, particularly if you need a specific approach to get the right handhold. You have to sway to build momentum, but that only works if you have room to move. Keep your eyes peeled for platforms off the sides of the main route, and try to find a good way to anchor onto them without leaving yourself stuck.
There’s a lot packed into those simple movements, and that makes for a very satisfying set of mechanics. The stage designs are built to test your mastery of those mechanics but also give you plenty of chances to play around. That playful sensibility extends to the game’s visuals and audio. The sock-monkey style of the characters is incredibly charming, with each new friend bringing their own unique look with them. There’s a surreal feeling to the stages, being made up of odd bits suspended in the sky. Everything hangs together well, but it’s all quite abstract and bizarre.
Everything comes back to the simple joy of moving around, however. The controls work in a way that really couldn’t be replicated on another platform. As you grip the screen, so too does your character clutch onto each platform. If you let go, so does your in-game avatar. It’s easy to remember to hold on with at least one arm, because you’re doing the same with your thumbs. Coordinating between those two limbs is where the trick comes in, but since you’re doing it with your own digits it’s a lot easier to wrap your head around. For such a simple game, it’s surprisingly immersive.
With clever and deep core gameplay mechanics, excellent level design, plenty of secrets, a smooth but challenging difficulty curve, and an incredibly adorable, unique presentation, Sway is an excellent game whether you’re looking for something to pick up and play for a few minutes or want to sink a couple of hours in during a lazy afternoon. Most of us are too old to play on a jungle gym or some monkey bars, but Sway just might be the next best thing.