Hands-On with The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan, by developer Giant Sparrow, tells the story of Monroe, a boy who is chasing a swan that has escaped from his mother’s favourite painting.  If you think the premise sounds obscure, just wait until you hear what the rest of the game has to offer, as it only gets stranger from here.

Viewed from a first person perspective, The Unfinished Swan (or at least the portion of the game we played at Sony’s Holiday Preview Event) is initially based in an entirely white world.  Using a paint gun that fires black pellets, Monroe must paint the world in order to find his way through the various rooms and corridors that populate it. The demo portion that we experienced seemed to be set almost in a fairly large museum-type environment, with statues of various animals scattered throughout the different locations, which varied from castle-esque gates to a pond that had to be crossed by discovering and subsequently jumping across a series of stepping stones. The traversal through the world was quite fascinating, and a lot of the time I found myself lingering in certain areas, throwing as much paint as I could to build as much of the world as possible.

The PlayStation Move controller is used to navigate Monroe through this fantastical world, with a simple combination of three buttons assigned to move, fire, and jump.  The controls are quite intuitive; although, actually progressing through the world can prove quite frustrating, as it can sometimes be difficult to work out where to go next, due to the nature of having to discover the world first-hand. There was one particular room where a ramp was almost impossible to see from certain angles, and I actually had to ask the booth attendant what I was supposed to do next, as I honestly had no idea, even after returning to the start of the area and trying again.

If you use too much black paint, the world quickly becomes as indefinable as when it is completely white, and so you must be fairly controlled in your shooting since liberally spraying an entire area with paint can do as much harm as good.  There are brief swatches of colour that serve as a guide for where to go, such as golden swan footprints or statues, but the actual process of getting to these locations can sometimes prove troublesome, due to a selection of both environmental and navigational puzzles.

Perhaps the closest approximation to what The Unfinished Swan is like is a mixture of Datura’s open-to-interpretation exploration and Epic Mickey’s magic paint brush concept.  However, as is clearly evident throughout gameplay, Giant Sparrow has done enough to create a game with a vision of its own.  With the developers themselves stating that this demo’s painting aspect is only representative of the first part of the game, it will be interesting to see how the finished product turns out, and I for one have certainly had my interest piqued in a game that I wasn’t very knowledgeable about beforehand.  The Unfinished Swan releases October 23 on PSN.

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October 9, 2012 - 8:00 am