Every now and again a game comes along that’s different to everything else out there. Sony’s PlayStation Network is known for harbouring these games, with Journey and Flower being just two examples that offerer very different and unique ideas but manage to also be utterly fantastic games. Giant Sparrow, a small indie game developer, has brought The Unfinished Swan to PSN and it really stands out as being wholeheartedly unique, but again also fantastic.
Told like a children’s book, the story of The Unfinished Swan unravels itself as you make your way through levels encountering letters on walls that, when you then shoot blobs of ink at them, expand into a page from a book. Telling the tale of Monroe, an orphan who’s mother loved to paint, one night Monroe awakes to find that his favourite painting, the unfinished swan, has changed – the swan in the painting has disappeared. Its here that Monroe decides to dives into his mother’s unfinished painting, and so the game begins.
Gameplay is rather basic, but it’s the experience that makes The Unfinished Swan so fantastic. Starting in a plain white area, with absolutely no sense of depth – a plain white screen on your TV, you hurl blobs of black paint from your paintbrush to discover the world around you as paint splashes over, under and around objects. After awhile the path you should take will become apparent, along with many other parts of the environment that previously couldn’t be seen. It’s a very unique moment, and it’s something that you’ll never have of experienced in a game before. It isn’t always this painting and stumbling your way through the environment though, as before long you’ll be using paint to create objects that allow you to navigate through puzzles and explore the world around you.
Although there is no real presence of danger, as you progress things do get more challenging. Some levels are darker and require you to stay in the light to avoid spiders; others require you to use blue paint to encourage vines to grow so you can reach new heights, and others need you to create platforms to help you through the levels. Each chapter introduces a new gameplay mechanic, and so each chapter also feels different to play through. It’s a great idea to mix things up in each chapter as when one particular mechanic feels like it’s about to become unwelcome a new one is thrown at your feet for you to master again. While the entire game is an absolute joy to play, I found that chapter 4 was especially fantastic and really outshines many other parts found in The Unfinished Swan.
It’s always key to create the right atmosphere in games that are so wildly different as The Unfinished Swan, Journey or Flower. None of them may be very long, with The Unfinished Swan only clocking in around the two hour mark, but at least Giant Sparrow have placed collectible balloons that change up the pace of gameplay – such as a hose that fires out paint faster. It’s alright though, you’ll be so captured by the wonderful visuals and the incredible display of firing paint at everything that you’ll be completely sucked into the story and mechanics, rather than worrying about how long it’s taken to finish. If that wasn’t enough, even the music is nothing short of fantastic. It’s very peaceful and suits the tone of the game perfectly.
Despite being a short game, and quite an expensive one at $14.99/£9.99, The Unfinished Swan gives you an experience that most other PSN games can’t match. It’s a beautiful, unique, and enjoyable game that everyone with a PS3 just has to play, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t – especially those who enjoyed Flower, and Journey. If you’re looking for the next great and unique title, this is it.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: The game looks absolutely fantastic, and the art style is beautiful. The music in game is also fantastic and suits the game perfectly.
Gameplay – 4/5: It’s simple but it’s still so enjoyable, it’s great shooting blobs of paint and creating the environment from scratch although constantly pressing the triggers to shoot blobs can begin to tire.
Innovation – 5/5: It’s unlike anything you’ve ever played before, it’s very basic and plays easily but still there’s absolutely nothing else out there like this.
Value – 3/5: It’s a short game, but it’s a great experience and is well worth replaying a few times, the collectible balloons and unlockable toys also add some replay value to the game.
Final Score 4.5/5