It seems that as the modern game industry grows there is now a distinct push towards games that are more of a journey, or an adventure, than traditionally associated with the medium. The likes of Heavy Rain, The Walking dead and LA Noire have begun to blur the lines between games and interactive cinema, while thatgamecompany’s Journey has ventured to the other end of the spectrum creating games that are focused more on the experience contained within than any other aspect of gaming. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means the pioneer of these styles, but merely the front runners in their respective speciality. It is also clear, that as a platform holder, Sony are currently at the forefront of developing and cultivating these new directions.
Into this arena steps a new contender, with the arrival of The Unfinished Swan by Giant Sparrow.
The Unfinished Swan, places you in the role of Monroe who is currently held in an orphanage following the death of his mother. His mother was a capacious painter, but although she created a great deal of work, they all went incomplete. When she died, Monroe was allowed to keep one of her works, and he chose her favourite, the titular unfinished swan. One night Monroe awakens to find the painting empty, and so begins his journey to find the swan carrying only his mothers silver paintbrush.
All of the story takes place, similar in style and mood to a Dahl or Sendak,in the form of a childrens book which relays Monroe’s tale as you progress. Further pages from the book can be found dotted about the levels which expand and fill out the tale of the King of this fantastical world into which you follow the swan.
Early footage showed off the opening levels as well as the first interactions used throughout this delightful game. You are tasked with following the swan, which leads you into the blank canvas world created by the King. Navigating through the environment requires you to throw out paint which will highlight the environment with Forests, Rocks, buildings and creatures appearing and coming to life as you reveal them against the background. The stark contrast between the black splatters of paint, revealing the refined, somewhat incomplete features of your surroundings, and the white, sterile environment is utterly stunning, and looking back on the path you have created from on high is a truly picturesque and alluring sight. Following the paint footprints of the swan through this barren environment, reveals the life and works of the King in his attempt to create the most perfect world he can imagine.
The mechanics available to your character are the same throughout, but the interaction with the environment changes. In later levels it will have you firing water to move switches and cause the rampant growth of climbable vines to negotiate the environment, hitting lights in the darkened levels to keep back the spiders that hide in the shadow and will attack you when you step out of the lights area, and even marking out areas in all 3 dimensions to create blocks out of special “blueprint” areas to allow you to progress further. These levels, unlike the initial level, are all starkly outlined allowing you to navigate with more ease than the initial chapter, but somewhat detracts from the look and feel of the game. You still have to pick out your path at places with your ability, but rather than the permanent addition of colour to a blank canvas, some of the later sections have your creation fade requiring you to slowly but surely traverse between the blank sections and those that are outlined and readily visible.
Overall the story is charming and engrossing, and even though the game is played out over four and six hours, it had me mesmerised the entire duration.
As you traverse the levels, you will on occasion stumble upon balloons hidden in the environment, and collecting these will act as currency for the “Toys” section of the menu. These include a small display for identifying when you are close to these hidden balloons, the ability to freeze the paint in mid-air to allow you to coat a wide area at once, and even the capability to wipe clean the world of all paint you have already utilised.
These alterations and the collection of these balloons add a small modicum of re-playability to the game, but not enough to warrant multiple completions of the entire story, and this lack of duration is really one of the few minor complaints I have about this title.
Aside from the games short length, progressing the growth of the vines in the second chapter is definitely the weakest point of this game and feels very linear in its delivery, but the rest of the game more than makes up for this deficit.
It is worth noting that this particular title has widespread appeal, and I have found that those more interested in their casual gaming have also been drawn to this game. With such a different approach to game design and storytelling, gamers of all ages and interests can enjoy this particular outing.
All in all, this is a fantastic addition to a growing branch of unique and stylised games, and living up to the name of their first game, I feel that the staff at GiantSparrow have not yet fully refined their place in the industry, and still have more room to grow their own brand and style.
I for one look forward to what they produce in the future.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: PS3 Release Date: 24/10/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of The Unfinished Swan for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 2 days on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.