The Unfinished Swan is a new game from developers Giant Sparrow, along with assistance from Armature Studio and SCE Santa Monica Studio. The Playstation exclusive, initially released in 2012, won awards for innovation and has been re-introduced for the Sony PS4 and PS Vita. Original narrative, gameplay, and art style are all found through the use of an inviting, fairytale landscape.
In The Unfinished Swan, players take the role of Monroe, a boy who unfortunately lost his mother in death. The story is narrated throughout by a kind and grandmotherly voice. Monroe begins the tale left with an unfinished painting of a swan from his mother who was once a great painter. The painting springs to life and Monroe and the player find themselves following the bird into the white blank of the painting. The game sets players on a task to find their way throughout the landscape in an effort to discover the mystery of a world deprived of color.
Narrative directs gameplay when it is soon becomes apparent that ink globs must be thrown around to reveal the world and secrets it contains. When first entering the white canvas, I felt as if I was lost, but then I let the ink fly with reckless abandon.
The story is also told through the finding of nursery rhyme pages that open level transitions, as if an otherworldly force is beckoning the player to finish the fairytale in full. You can feel like a kid by not holding back when it comes to decorating the world, as messy as you like, and get rewarded for it. The added bonuses are the collectible and colorful balloons you find on your quest.
Colors also bring an innovative and artistic appeal to the game. Contrast is used nicely with shades of black and white to distinguish pathways, with hints of color providing subtle directional clues for players to find important areas, puzzles, and objects. Simple mechanics and subtle direction shine in this title.
The only fault in the game may be in the mechanics that are almost too simple; the player only has a jump and ink throw command. This may throw off some players who want to do more with their characters without feeling limited. I say look past this, if possible, to find an inviting and easy-to-play adventure game from Giant Sparrow.
Benjamin Pope is a Game Design and Art/Animation student at the University of Advancing Technology working toward giving something back to the gaming industry through great, deep and addictive game titles. Here is my blog.