Follow the… Golden Swan Tracks? The Unfinished Swan Review For PS3
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Are you growing tired of the monotony involved with action RPGs and FPS games? Do you just want to take a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole without having to run for your life? Giant Sparrow heard your pleas and released a little nugget of pure entertainment called The Unfinished Swan on the PlayStation Network. It’s the kind of game you can pick up and drift into without getting your blood pumping, and instead allow a youthful wonder to slowly take hold of you. The concept is a simple one: take a blank canvas, a PlayStation Move controller, some imagination, and ‘poof’ – you have yourself an instant classic.
In the opening video, you can sit back and listen as the game comes to life in a storybook-style adventure. The gentle, motherly voice of the narrator begins reading you a story being hand-drawn before your eyes and it’s as if you are curling up in your bed being read to as a sleepy little child. The voice acting coupled with the serene feel behind the musical compositions of the Nashville Scoring Orchestra lulls you into a peaceful state, preparing you for a softer and more unique gaming experience.
The story begins with Monroe and his mother. You learn that she was a painter, and used to draw the most beautiful paintings while Monroe watched, but never seemed to be able to finish them. The story recalls the day that Monroe’s mother dies, and how she left him all of these wonderful paintings in her will. Unfortunately, the orphanage he now resides in will only let him keep one painting. He chooses his favourite: The Unfinished Swan. One night, he hears a loud noise and awakens to find the Swan missing from the painting, and a mysterious door appears beside the frame. He grabs his mother’s Magical Silver Paintbrush, and heads into the magical entrance to look for the missing Swan. And fade to white… No literally, the story ends and it fades out to a white screen, with a tiny black target as the only distinguishable addition to the screen.
This is where the game becomes both remarkable and frustrating at the same time. The white screen you see is actually part of a larger Kingdom, but since there is nothing but white in this area, the only thing you can do is throw paint at it with the Magical Silver Paintbrush. To do this, you simply aim the Move controller at the screen and hit the Trigger button to splatter paint in that direction. At the very beginning, the game does explain how to move forward and backwards, but that is all the direction you’ll get. The rest is up to you to discover, with no clues save a random set of golden Swan tracks scattered around the Kingdom.
As you throw black paint from your Magic Paintbrush, you’ll start to hit solid objects around you. There are walls, lamp posts, windows, statues… you name it. There’s an entire world you must travel through using the paint to ‘light’ your way. It’s as if you were placed on an empty sheet of paper and must use a little bit of exploration and talent to transform it into your own universe. The frustrating part of this is that since you receive very little instruction, and are thrown into the white abyss as soon as you enter the door, you spend a good while trying to figure out what to do, and it takes a while to get accustomed to the game’s paint mechanic. There’s a certain finesse required to flinging paint, and you will quickly find out that ‘less is more’ in The Unfinished Swan. Throwing too much paint in one area will be counterproductive, as huge puddles of ink will obliterate outlines of landmarks, making it difficult to navigate around the environment. Great concept, but without any true tutorial, the learning curve can annoy many gamers.
The gracefulness of this game is due in part to the fact that you’re not hacking and slashing your way through it, and you aren’t really directed towards a ‘bigger story’. The first playthrough takes roughly two-to-four hours and is extremely simplistic. As you progress through the world it gets more and more detailed adding outlines, shadows, and even new colours, and your paint changes colour as you continue on as well (for example, you shoot blue paint that disappears after a while instead of black paint).
Moving through the game, you will also see balloons placed around that you can hit with your blobs of paint, and you can collect them to spend on little extras like concept art. You will also come across gold letters placed on various walls. If you hit these gold letters with your paint, a new page to the story appears on the wall, and the narrator’s voice comes back to read it to you. You learn more about this magical world as you read, such as how the King who rules over the entire Kingdom is extremely picky and selfish, and how he only changes the rules (like adding shadows and colour) when his subjects riot against him. It helps give credence to the changes you witness as you move along, and adds more balance to your journey than wandering aimlessly trying to figure out what this Swan is up to, and why it is always just out of your reach.
Visually The Unfinished Swan is incredible, as the entire game adds layer upon layer every chapter – creating a full storybook feel by the end. The neat part about this is that each new area has its own unique appeal. The challenge of walking blindly through a maze of white, the journey through rooms that repeat themselves until you go right and jump down a hole, or the puzzling nature of the Swan footprints that can walk in a straight line upwards while you’re stuck below, this game gives you so much to explore for such a small mini-game adventure.
The Unfinished Swan receives a 4.75/5.0
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