Review: The Unfinished Swan
Sony isn’t one to shy away from games that pack a little more style than anything else. Look at this year alone, first we had PixelJunk 4am a true audio-visual experience using the Move controller. Then there was Journey, thatgamecompany’s beautiful trek across barren deserts and snow-capped mountains. Even more recently with Papo & Yo, a game which acts as the creator’s autobiography at times. Telling the story of his alcoholic and abusive father. All of these games show that Sony isn’t afraid give developers the space to go beyond what some players see as “a game.” With thatgamecompany moving on after their deal with Sony ended, it is now Giant Sparrow’s turn in the spotlight with The Unfinished Swan.
The Unfinished Swan is told through the eyes of Monroe, who is an orphan. His mother was an artist with a habit of never finishing the painting she was working on. Due to this fact, hundreds of unfinished paintings covered the walls of his house. Sadly one day his mother passed away and Monroe was only allowed to bring one painting with him to the orphanage. As you can probably guess he took his favorite painting, “The Unfinished Swan”. One night Monroe awakens to find that the swan is missing from the painting and that there is a strange door in his room. He enters that door and this is where you take over from.
Many people have probably seen what the first area of the game looks like by now. The all white world where you only can see what you paint black. But that really is just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the game’s four different chapters you are subjected to a variety of different visual styles and even gameplay elements. The subtle shading of the castle walls and the use of color are what really sets this game apart for me. It is like each world is a color-by-numbers page in a coloring book where only a few select colors are used. And it is the use of these colors that gives the game its brilliance. The grays and whites are complemented by lush greens and cool blue tones in the early stages. When the game takes a turn in the third chapter, so do the colors. Whites and grays are replaced by blacks and purples giving each level a certain emotion.
This emotion is also conveyed with the game’s storybook tale. Hidden throughout the world are golden letters which when revealed offer up a piece of the story read by a calm mother’s voice. It is a little touch like that where the game shines. It sounds as if you yourself are getting read this story right before your bedtime and it helps to add to the dreamlike visions you have while playing. The music also does a good bit to add to this. It was one of my favorite parts as it always matched the scene perfectly. Regal and proud in courtyards while being solemn and ominous in the forests that lie beyond the castle walls.
Gameplay wise things are rather simple. Your main goal is to throw paintballs around the world with each chapter adding a new twist. You start off by just being able to reveal what is around you with black paint, then you become a gardener watering vines so that they can grow all through the castle and its surrounding city. Eventually you even gain the ability to build within your dreams. It should be mentioned that the game does have Move support, but I can only really recommend playing with it if you have a Navigation controller. Otherwise with all the game’s controls mapped to one Move you lose the sense of freedom the game works so hard to express. With quick chapter progression the game never gets boring. You won’t have that one chapter where you are stuck doing the same thing over and over again for hours, well mostly because the game takes just about two hours total to complete.
But that won’t mean that you won’t be coming back to the game more than once. Besides trophies which offer up interesting ways to play, like beating the first area with only 3 or less paint thows, there are also hidden balloons in each world. Sometimes they are even devilishly painted the same color as the surroundings making it tough to find without the help of “balloon radar”, which you can see it in action in the embedded video below. Collecting these balloons will give you access to different toys in the world, like a hose which can shoot loads of paint or even some concept art. So while the game might only take an hour or so to beat, you will probably want to go back and search high and low for all sorts of things the developers have placed throughout each level.
Short and sweet to its core, The Unfinished Swan really is the PlayStation Network’s bedtime story. You won’t find much challenge in the game’s puzzles, but what you will find is that something special which that inner child in all of us can adore.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Each chapter's unique look and feel
- Revealing the world around me
- Exploring each level
- Top notch art direction
What I Dislike:
- Rather short (Just like a bedtime story)
- Some issues with 1st person platforming
- When using just a Move controller the game feels sluggish