Review: The Body Changer

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I know I’ve talked about game feel before, but it keeps coming up as a key feature that games either nail down or let slip away. Your game can be as clever or beautiful or engaging as can be, but if it feels bad to play then none of that is going to matter. In the case of The Body Changer, it can’t really rely much on the former so it’s all the more damning that the latter isn’t up to par. I’m being rather hard on it here… it’s a neat idea for a game, just not one that pans out on any level.

You’re going to have to pick bits of the story out of the utilitarian opening and extremely concise terminals everywhere, but you seem to be stationed on some water facility out in space. Something has infected the precious supply and turned it blood red, and it’s up to you to get the purifiers back on line and clean everything up. “You” won’t be doing it yourself, though, because in this version of the future you have SynBs, gormless cyborgs which you can control remotely. With their help, you’ll wade through pools of goo, seal pipes, blast corrupted ‘borgs, and maybe get to the bottom of this whole mess.

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The Body Changer is at least named appropriately, because most of your time is going to be spent switching between bodies with different abilities. Some are combat trained, some are shielded against the infection, and some are helpfully color-coded for the big people-sized switches they need to stand on to open doors. Opening doors is your primary concern when there aren’t monsters around, either by finding keycards, triggering switch sequences with your laser wristband thingy, or making good use of the aforementioned floor switches. Levels tend to be linear in how you progress through them to the purifiers but that’s going to include plenty of backtracking and opening side paths.

That was where I started to sour on the gameplay, actually. Your first thirty minutes with the game will acclimate you to switching bodies, grabbing items, and interacting with useless terminals. You’ll get to a room where you take control of a combat SynB and gun down some zombie ‘borgs… and then get stuck. It turns out you need to take another body all the way back to the start of the tutorial to get a keycard to proceed. You’ll need to do some similar shuffling about in later areas too, with detours through three side rooms to get to the other side of a main room or runs back to the start of the level to open something with a new colored laser.

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I can see the attempt at a metroidvania-style world here but it just doesn’t work as designed. Backtracking is incredibly boring here, owing to the slow movement, extremely plain environments, and lack of compelling secrets. The environments are huge offenders here, barely reminiscent of actual, livable locations with their plain cel-shaded walls and complete lack of detail. The characters and items are not much better, looking like inflatable versions of Aeon Flux characters and moving in stiff, barely-animated strides. Items simply poof out of the air when you touch them, and ammo is represented in the world merely as 2D icons.

Every time I sat down to play The Body Changer, I got an intense urge to do literally anything else after about fifteen minutes. It feels entirely too much like a game world, full of rigid facsimiles of people and rooms that serve no purpose beyond impeding progress. Why would you even have your door controls be giant laser-activated lights ten feet off the ground? I’m sure a lot of this is by design, considering the story about synthetic servitor beings and the dichotomy of purity and infection, but it doesn’t matter as long as the game simply feels bad to play. Even the menus are plain, badly-proportioned boxes that feel like placeholders. There’s a seed of a good idea buried in The Body Changer, but it would need a better, more polished game to bring it out.

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