Will you Finish the Unfinished Swan?
Unfinished Swan is a PlayStation exclusive title developed by Giant Sparrow. It was on the PlayStation store that I stumbled upon this title. The title didn’t really catch my eye, but I was intrigued by the trailer. The game world is very unique. It takes place in a world entirely covered in white. Throwing black paint to reveal objects and pathways is the only way to illuminate the world.
I’ve always been fascinated by the loss of sight mechanic since I played Beyond Eyes. Unlike Beyond Eyes, where the world will naturally fill in as progress is made, Unfinished Swan lets you fill in the world through exploration. This artistic contrast is starkly beautiful.
The beginning of story introduces Monroe and his Mother. Mother loves painting, but she never finishes paintings, scattering high-finished canvases throughout Monroe’s home. When she died, Monroe was only able to keep one of his mother’s unfinished paintings. He chose the Unfinished Swan. One night, he wakes to find the Swan has disappeared from the canvas. Taking his mother’s paint brush he ventures into a door he had never seen before. Thus begins the story of Unfinished Swan, as Monroe enters a fantasy world to search for the missing swan.
Along within the central story, there’s a parallel story about the King of the world. The King’s story often mirrors Monroe’s story. For instance, the King and Monroe’s mother are both incapable of finishing projects. The story is narrated much like a children’s book. Finding certain areas reveals different chapters of the story which explains more about the King and the world’s past. It’s all told by a very soothing grandmotherly narrator. However, it’s not The Cat In The Hat. There are some adult tones, the most obviously being a boy losing his mother.
From a gameplay aspect, the pure white area does not last forever. Later chapters alter the environment and your tools to explore and solve puzzles. While still beautiful, I found the new environments to be a bittersweet change from the first pure white area. Having a blank slate to explore was the primary reason for purchasing the game. One reason for me even getting the game was for that pure white area that I would then explore and discover in. Granted, the change was somewhat of a relief. I got lost several times in the beginning area and ended up going in circles several times.
The black paint will not stick around forever either. There are a few different balls that you can throw depending on the area of the game. The first will be the black balls that will help in seeing the objects around you. The blue balls, which seem to be water, can be used for visuals. They are not permanent like the black ones and will fade within a few moments. They are more useful in the directing the vines that will help you climb through areas. Finally there is a darker blue building ball. In areas with a blue print like surface you can throw balls to make blocks and platforms that will help you progress.
There is little direction to the game. After hearing the opening of the story all I saw was the white screen. It took mashing buttons to figure out the R2 and L2 would throw the balls out to give me some idea of where I was. The lack of direction isn’t terrible in it of itself. It does allow for more exploration, which can be helpful in finding balloons. Balloons are hidden collectibles that act as currency. With balloons you’ll be able to buy abilities, but some will not be available till after at least the first play through.
My only other issue was the ladder mechanics. For whatever reason it felt like the controls inverted whenever I got on a ladder. I would be almost to the top when for no reason I would start climbing back down. Not sure what caused this issue since it was only on the ladders that it even happened. Anytime I climbed on vines there was no problem. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it is frustrating.
Did I enjoy The Unfinished Swan? Yes. Will I be playing it again? Probably not. Beyond hunting for balloons, there is little replay value. The story was always the most important aspect of the game, so knowing how it ends takes away the enjoyment of the game. Since the story is like a children’s book, there is a deeper meaning beyond the surface. The Unfinished Swan is a short beautiful children’s story. It’s easily worth a few hours of your time and won’t put a dent in your wallet (there’s an added bonus if you’re like me and have trouble finishing things).