Game Review: The Unfinished Swan

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I’ll have to admit that I didn’t know much about The Unfinished Swan until I started playing it last week. I had written a few things about the game but, I didn’t know a whole lot about it other than the story and that it revolved around paint. Boy was I wrong about that. Did the quiet marketing of The Unfinished Swan create a buzz for a great game or hide the shortcomings of a mediocre one? Find out here!

I have to hand it to Sony for realizing the potential of many independent developers and giving them the tools to do what they want to do how they want to do it. Giant Sparrow is a relatively unknown development studio much like another beloved studio, thatgamecompany. Thatgamecompany went on to make Flow, Flower, and most recently, Journey and much like The Unfinished Swan were very artistic and visual experiences. Giant Sparrow looks to fall under that same light with their first game under contract with Sony in The Unfinished Swan. Let me just say that this was a completely different kind of experience than I have been used to with modern gaming and I loved the change of pace.

The golden footprints that will be your guide along the way.

A woman begins The Unfinished Swan by telling us the story of Monroe, a young orphan boy who is left with an abundance of paintings from his mother (who oddly enough never finished a single one). The orphanage only allows him to keep one and he chooses his mother’s favourite, The Unfinished Swan. One night, he wakes up to find that the swan has vanished from the painting and he jumps into the canvas to start off the game.

I know what you’re thinking now, “All you do is drop blobs of paint all over the world to give it definition”. Wrong. The first fifteen minutes do involve that but, that’s just getting your feet wet in this game. It’s a really cool feeling to be painting the world around you though and one that won’t leave you soon after, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done in a video game. Each blob throw creates something new and even plops in water when you find it to give you a better sense of the surface you’re embarking on. While this is a nice part of the game, it’s just one part of a serene and calming adventure.

Paint is just one part of this amazing game.

This game isn’t all about black paint and maybe that’s where the trailers and previews have done this title a disservice because I too had thought the same thing previously. As I did play through this title, I realized how diverse it was and how you really have to see every chapter to understand what it’s all about because each one brings something new and ties the story together. ¬†You can create platforms, move an orb for protection, and various other things really brings the whole experience together. You have to play it to truly understand what I’m talking about and to truly see how the whole story forms over the course of the gameplay.

For those looking for a challenge, this isn’t it. This is a story and it is something that you play to have a calming effect. It is something that anyone can enjoy though and I want to stress that. All these macho people who think playing a game about a little boy and a swan isn’t manly or something need to understand that this is a game for everyone and every person can enjoy the story that is told.

Colour!

The story always has some brief story-telling from the narrator who tells the story as you play through. In addition to that, there are always golden footprints in the game world to guide you where you need to go while golden letters will also pop up on walls. You never get lost and you will never feel an ounce of annoyance while playing.

I did try the PlayStation Move with this but, it didn’t feel very natural to use it in this game and I really think it’s better suited for the DualShock. The game clocks in at 2-3 hours depending on how quickly you play but, if you feel like exploring everything the game has to offer it could be substantially more. There are hidden balloons that can be redeemed for a number of “toys” that you can replay the game and use. For $14.99 the price may be a little much for a 2 hour game but, it felt like a very good price for the different type of gameplay you’re receiving.

Water adds another gameplay element in addition to the paint.

The Unfinished Swan is a wonderful first game with Sony for Giant Sparrow and I for one can’t wait for the next ones to come from this studio. Don’t be fooled by the trailers, there’s a lot more to this game than paint. This isn’t a hardcore game, this is a game to get lost in for a short amount of time and to enjoy for what it is: an artistic story.

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