The Unfinished Swan review: A brave new medium 0

It was just earlier this year when I was introduced to Giant Sparrow’s The Unfinished Swan at E3. In the midst of the flashing lights and loud thumps of the dubstep, the game sat in an unassuming section of Sony’s booth. I took a few minutes to play it while waiting for a bigger AAA game and it’s designer to be available. After only a few minutes I was hooked and I spent the rest of the week telling my colleagues about this little game at Sony’s booth that they had to play. Months go by and I’m wondering if I’ll love the game the same when it’s not under the lights of gaming’s biggest show.

I did — in fact, I loved it more. The Unfinished Swan is not like anything you’ve played before. It’s a beautiful, poignant tale that keeps you guessing and you won’t be able to stop from smiling at some of the game’s best moments. There are some that will say it’s too short for its own good, but The Unfinished Swan’s novel concept wouldn’t feel as unique sixty hours in. Trust me — you want to experience The Unfinished Swan.

The game tells the story of a young boy named Monroe, whose mother has just passed. The orphanage tells him that he can keep just one of her many paintings to keep and he chooses the one with The Unfinished Swan. One night he awakes to find the Swan missing from the canvas and jumps in to find it. The game tells its story in storybook fashion and it unfolds in such a pleasant and wonderful way that you won’t be able to help but smile as the game progresses on.It’s a tale that only lasts about the length of a feature film, which may seem short to some, but feels just right in context.

Developed by: Giant Sparrow
Published by: Sony Santa Monica
Genre: first person..painting…
Platform: PSN
What works: Great unique concept| Sense of wonder| Gorgeous visuals| Excellent pacing|Immersive|
What doesn’t work:motion controls seem tacked on
★★★★★

Interestingly enough, The Unfinished Swan begins with well…a lot of nothing. You’re presented with a static white screen with nothing but what appears to be a small black reticle on it. Pressing pretty much any button will result in throwing a black glob of paint out and watching it splatter against a wall you had no idea was there. It’s almost instinctively then that you start flinging these paint globs into the open and creating a defined world around you.

You begin to see walls, corners, walkways and as you pass through, you create entire gardens and even buildings. It’s not uncommon to take a break from exploring to look back at the masterpiece you’ve just created and marvel at how beautiful it all really is. The game is also a lesson in moderation, as abusing your paint throwing ability will take away from the game’s beauty and turn the game from pure white to pure black.

Of course, if the only thing the game did was the paint throwing mechanic, The Unfinished Swan would be one thin game, but luckily, that’s just the start of it. With every chapter the game introduces a new mechanic like the ability to throw water that fit in with the game’s theme and creativity. I won’t get into too much detail but just know that the developers do a great job ensuring that none of the mechanics overstay their welcome, and that each one feels just as unique as the last one.

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to show people a game as much as I do The Unfinished Swan. That could be because there’s no need to explain a complicated control scheme or backstory — just simply place the controller (the game also supports the PlayStation Move, but it’s nowhere near as satisfying as playing the old fashioned way) in someone’s hands and let them experience it for themselves. For the full effect, get a surround sound headset and just let the game’s world take over. The world of The Unfinished Swan is one that everyone needs to get lost in — at least for a bit.

The Unfinished Swan is one of those games that you won’t expect to love as much as you do. It’s a game about discovery, about growing, about taking chances, and it’s also one of my favorite games of the year. It’s a game that you absolutely need to get lost in. Pining for originality in games? Put your money where your mouth is and play this game.