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Review: The Unfinished Swan

Updated on April 21, 2013

Developer: Giant Sparrow - Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment - Platform: Playstation 3 - Release Date: October 16, 2012

Concept: Travel through a world of unfinished paintings to chase a swan that has escaped it's own

Graphics: Clean and sparse, though staring at the bright white areas may strain some eyes after a while

Sound: The score is both pleasant and forgettable

Playability: Run, jump, climb and toss paint. The controls are simple and work fine

Entertainment: The Unfinished Swan is a delightful and tranquil journey that anyone can enjoy. Players looking for a more challenging puzzler should look elsewhere

Replay Value: Low

When Less Is More

The Unfinished Swan is among the latest in the current boom of stylized, experimental indie titles and one of the most endearing in terms of narrative. As a young orphan named Monroe, you're given your favorite painting of your deceased mother, a beautiful, though incomplete, swan. When the swan escapes it's painting, Monroe enters his mother's other unfinished works in pursuit of the now liberated bird. Monroe explores an abandoned kingdom once ruled by a King who had used his magic paint brush to create his domain, and discovers the sad story of the misfortunes of ruling it.

Upon entering the world, everything is a stark white. Toss a glob of black paint, and you'll expose hidden objects, corridors, platforms, and doorways. There's a very fun sense of discovery in this mechanic; I was tossing paint all over the place, eager to determine my surroundings. My artistic side also made me self-conscious of how I was painting, as using too much removes helpful highlights, making it tougher to distinguish different objects. It's a cool and unique mechanic, turning the environment into a stunning ink painting.

There's much more to The Unfinished Swan than painting black onto white. Each chapter adds a wholly new element to the world, for better or worse. The Unfinished Swan soars highest when the puzzle-solving is more open and flexible, such as in the beginning and final chapters. Sadly, the linearity of the middle chapters effectively clip this bird's wings.

Chapter 2 gives you water to throw, which fuels the growth of thirsty vines used for climbing. Thus, that chapter is spent throwing a sea's worth of liquid in a relatively straight line, in order to lead the vines towards wherever their growth is needed. While watching bushels of vines snake across a surface provides a cool visual, making it happen is pretty tedious. The third chapter focuses on using lights to navigate pitch-black areas. By that, I mean walking between light sources while guiding a mobile light to illuminate the long stretches of dark. Again, pretty to look at, but a somewhat of a snooze to play.

Puzzle-solving overall is simple and undemanding and is more of a vehicle for the charming narrative. With only four chapters, the game can be completed in a single, brief, sitting, and the straightforward controls allow for anyone to pick it up and enjoy. I would have liked to see the gameplay follow the format of the first chapter a bit more, but I appreciate the attempt to mix things up. The Unfinished Swan is an enjoyable, serene ride that, if nothing else, serves as the perfect chill pill between more adrenaline-pumping titles


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