Unfinished Swan Review
When we were raised by our parents, they tried to teach us everything they could from how to eat, how to read, how to write. They let us grow up and when they had finished their job, moved us on to bigger and better things. Sadly not everyone is so lucky, the idea of an orphan or someone that has lost their parents and their childhood learning process being considered ‘unfinished’ is a sad one indeed. The Unfinished Swan’s main plot revolves around this theme; it does it in such a classy and understanding way that really provides gamers with an underlining sense of emotion. Sure the game doesn’t dwell on this main plot too often, instead releasing you into a storybook world of wonder. This quirky and interesting world provides one of the greatest experiences I have had in gaming, from the majestic soundtrack, to the sense of discovery and the ability to provide some heart-racing intense moments. Giant Sparrow has created one of the most beautiful experiences of 2012. The world of the Unfinished Swan awaits you.
Monroe is a young boy who sadly lost his mother, she was obsessed with painting; sadly she never finished any of her artworks. When his mother sadly passes he is told he can only choose to keep one of her paintings, he choose the Unfinished Swan (Hence the title), one night he wakes up to find the swan has left the canvas it once sat. Monroe finds a door he has never seen before and decides to enter, taking him to the gorgeous world that the game offers.
When you first enter you will be greeted to a completely white room, from there you use your shoulder or triggers buttons to throw black balls of paint. It is a very simple premise at first, but the system gets much deeper in the later levels, which I will try my best not to spoil. The variety of gameplay portrayed within the 5 chapters that the game offers, really does offer some memorable moments and though the first few levels may seem like a casual stroll, the game does not mind flipping gameplay on its head.
Without spoiling the later levels, the gameplay within Unfinished Swan works splendidly, everything Giant Sparrow tries to accomplish, they do it with utmost class. The level design is top notch and with the varied gameplay, works wonders at complimenting each other; the game is smart and will leave you with big smiles when you experience it for yourself. The opening premise of a white world that you can interact with is such a cool idea, using the paint in your possession to bring life to the world. Mostly you will be following golden footprints left by the swan, but following him will require you to outsmart the environmental puzzles and gameplay variations. These puzzles are not Portal 2 mind-bending but they provide a lovely challenge and flesh out the experience.
Basic, but gorgeous
The entire game takes place within a story book, throughout the game world you will encounter story pages with some brilliant art work that also provide a quirky, yet interesting story. The music during the games 5 chapters’ changes with different situations, but every single track provides a whimsical essence that makes playing an absolute pleasure; these tracks are not only beautiful but extremely catchy and will continue to play through your head long after the games completion. One of Unfinished Swans downsides is its length, sitting at around 2 hours for the standard playthrough, though the game is meant for multiple playthrough’s.
Every level contains hidden balloons that you hit with your balls of paint to collect; collecting these balloons allows you to cash them in for toys. These toys are accessed at anytime through your pause screen; they range from upgrades such as the Hose allowing you to douse the world in paint faster, an ability to stop time to allow all your balls of paint to splash at once. For those who find every balloon you can enjoy the paint loaded sniper rifle, there are plenty more items to unlock for those looking to explore this gorgeous world thoroughly.
Every part of Unfinished Swan fits together perfectly; think of it as one big puzzle. Every facet of the game finds a way to complement each other; this provides one of the most solid experiences from start to finish. The world that Giant Sparrow has created is something that needs to be experienced, to realize the full potential that this game possesses; words do not do it justice. Unfinished Swan has this ability to provide this extremely emotional experience, not because of the sad plot involving Monroe, but the combination of allowing the player to feel like he is in control and then rip it right out of their hands by providing some great intense moments. One particular section of the game, around half way through will take what you know, through it out the window and leave you in a completely dark room. I won’t lie, I panicked. The idea that I was once controlling the world and now have that power taken away from me, left me feeling vulnerable in a world I knew nothing about was absolutely phenomenal.
Monroe with his mothers artwork
Although unfinishing a child’s growth is one facet of the story, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. It provides some great comedy that gamers of all ages can enjoy, there is even a few moments where the game breaks the forth wall, which provided me with a good laugh. Giant Sparrow has been able to turn a simple tech demo into a full blown, experience. Shooting paint balls may work perfectly, but some climbing sections do feel flimsy. It is quite hard to judge if you are going to fall off or you are safely located on the object. This doesn’t affect the gameplay experience much, but it can be a little odd at first.
Danger lurks in the water
Unfinished Swan sets out to provide a perfect story book adaption to the world of gaming and they do it with such class, such magnificent skill that this game is one of my favourites of 2012. The gameplay is smart, the world gorgeous and every facet that this game displays, compliments one another to create something that even a non-gamer will take pleasure out of experiencing. The experience may seem too steep for some, with only 2 hours of story being provided and no online options. But I implore you to check this game out, as soon as I finished the game I wanted to explore, collect all the hidden balloons and progress through the magnificent experience once again.
This is one of the best games of 2012 and an absolute must-play for PlayStation 3 owners.
Story Book Come to Life
Loose Climbing Mechanics
Jamie Briggs runs Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and their videos on YouTube.