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The Unfinished Swan [PSN] Review

Posted on October 25, 2012 AT 06:33pm

I see hundreds of press releases a month for games big, small and independent, and while all of them my piqued interest in one way or another, there are certain games that really capture my imagination when the first images are released. They hint at something so original and new that I decide whether they are good or bad, I just have to play them.  Journey by thatgamecompany was one of them and The Unfinished Swan from Giant Sparrow is definitely another. As a side note, there is an homage to Journey within The Unfinished Swan, hidden but not really hard to find. Just a little fun fact.

The Unfinished Swan is a shooter and puzzle game, with a smidge of platformer thrown in, all in 3D form but it’s more than that, it’s a new experience. Suspend any preconceptions you have about what a video game is because this game will challenge those notions. There isn’t any violence or struggling with baddies to survive. You are a part of a story, a story that unfolds before you as you travel through a fantastical kingdom and hear its history. You are Monroe, an orphan. Your mother was an artist and loved to paint but she never finished any of her paintings. When she died, you were sent to an orphanage but were only allowed to bring one of her paintings with you. You chose The Unfinished Swan. It was your mother’s favorite unfinished painting. One night you wake up to find the swan has disappeared from the painting, leaving behind a set of footprints. You decide to follow them and here is where your adventure begins.

This game is awesome in its simplicity. Your view is first-person and at the beginning the only tools at your disposal are being able to shooting ink/water blots, depending on the chapter you are in, and the ability to jump. Eventually you will be able to build block and platforms but honestly, it doesn’t get any more complicated than that. The world around you is a blank canvas for the most part. While some shadows and details are highlighted, once you get past the first chapter, everything is pretty monochromatic with the occasional pop of color. While the idea of looking at a blank screen may seem really simple and boring, I found it surprisingly complex. The way you highlight the environment with your ink will effect what you see from whatever direction you are looking. It can reveal as well as hide. It really is a masterpiece of programming and art design.

As you travel through the story, the world will slowly gain more color and detail. Things become more sinister and the story of the King that didn’t like color begins to unfold. You will need to explore this canvas and solve puzzles using the tools you have on hand. None of the puzzles will make you want to through your controller through the television, so don’t worry. Plus you can’t really “die” in the game. You will respawn back at a a designated point and can try again. The respawn point is generally where you were standing when you had your little accident or pretty close to it.  Making your way through the story isn’t the only thing you have to do though. There are storybook pages to reveal and balloons to find. These hidden balloons can be used to purchase extras like a hose, for example. So, rather than just shooting one dot at a time you can hose the entire area, finding the items quickly or solving problems faster.

It is not a long game by any means but it does have a moderate replay value if you are a person that likes to finish every little thing in a game. You will not find all the hidden pages and balloons on your first run through so you will need to go back and replay. You do have the option to choose the chapter you want to play and it will display how many balloons are on the level as well as how many you actually found. I didn’t find anything like that for the storybook pages so that might take some more digging and replaying. You do have the option of purchasing a balloon detector with the balloons you have already found. This will help you find the last of those pesky helium-filled toys.

SUMMARY: The Unfinished Swan is completely family friendly. As I am typing this, my six-year old son is starting his first playthrough and my two-year old daughter is enthralled with watching anyone play it. I fully plan on playing again and finding all the items I missed. If I can find those missing pages, I’ll learn more detail about the story and I am finding that I have to a need to know more. It really is a nice, simple game that anyone can play. It proves once again, that a game doesn’t have to follow conventional rules to entertain and be worth purchasing. If you happen to own a PS3, are a fan of games like Flower, Journey or LIMBO, you should really consider picking this one up from the Playstation Network Store.

  • THE GOOD: Family friendly, unique concept, well executed
  • THE BAD: Only moderate replay value, short story

Score: 8.5/10

Carly "PoisonPinkFluff" Frith is a little sugar, a little salt, and a whole lot of personality. Gamer, general geek and beer aficionado. Just call her a tomboy in high heels. She is on Twitter: @DN_PinkFluff.

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