Published on November 12th, 2012 | by Mitch Concannon
A Finished Masterpiece | Unfinished Swan Review
Summary: A short, but one of the most engaging games I've played so far this year. I would have no problem in saying that this is a contender for many people when it's coming down to game of the year time. I look forward to whatever the guys at Giant Sparrow bring out in the future.
Every so often a game will release each year and will make it very difficult to put a description on what it is. The likes of Flower and Journey are good examples of games that are doing new and interesting ideas that test a consoles abilities and strengths. A lot of the times these games get referred to as art, and I definitely agree that The Unfinished Swan fits this description perfectly.
The game grabs you with its engaging story, and the environment it immerses you in. In a way it makes you feel like you are progressing through; discovering what happens to your character in the end and also caring for him. You do get a feeling that even though the game is pretty and enjoyable, you can’t shake the feeling that you wonder will there be a happy story telling ending.
The story of The Unfinished Swan follows an orphan boy by the name of Monroe who wakes from his bed to find that his favorite piece of his late mother is missing. The painting was the only piece of his mother he had left. Without hesitation he grabs his silver paint brush and goes through a door he hadn’t seen before, which then sets in to motion the upcoming events that you will have to go through in the game.
Another character known as the King is introduced into the game. You will follow his story and the effect of his emotions had on the world you are discovering in chase of The Unfinished Swan that has come to life and always escapes your grasp every time you get close to him. It’s clear that in his days of youth the King had issues, which is why his world is so empty dull. Your progress in the environment starts to put shape and colours, changing the mood from dullness to creative.
The gameplay has a first person adventure shooter feel to it. Granted at no point are you killing anything with your orbs in the game, it is more about solving the puzzles by shooting. Using the orbs to help guide you through area to area either by turning what’s invisible to visible, to shooting lamps to extend the light through out a level, to prevent red glowing eye monsters from killing you. The game has only one mission, progress through the 4 story chapters to discover what happens to Monroe at the end of the game.
The game is not particularly long. It lasts from two to three hours depending on your skill and your engagement in the world. It stretches out between 4 chapters, which each have several parts to them. Each chapter has you dealing with new mechanics, such as shooting water on vines to create a new path for Monroe. The game keeps the pacing well and doesn’t feel staggered.
Like I said in the opening, The Unfinished Swan in my opinion has no problem being labelled as art. Art can be many things, but at the end of the day it has to look good to appeal to the audience. Well, The Unfinished Swan is a fantastic looking piece. The game runs well on the PS3 and doesn’t suffer at any point from screen tearing or frame rates.
Perhaps keeping a game simple is the way to making it look better than most other games out there. The world does not have a lot to it in relation to scale and size, and because of this the game has very little loading. It keeps it flowing like the turn of a book cover, which is how it feels when it’s trying to tell the story of Monroe.
From the get go, as soon as the first cinematic ends you are dropped straight onto a white canvas, and all you see is cross hairs which lets you know you are in the gameplay aspect of the game. They leave you to figure out what to do. Once you fire the first paint orb you know what you have to do. Splat as many of them as you can to find your way through the maze.
Once out you know what you have to do. Like the art direction, it’s simple and clear. There is no in game tutorial needed in this game. When the game changes up, it never catches you off guard. When your in a puzzle area it doesn’t take anytime for you to realise this. They will involve a bit of brain power at times, but never get so frustrating that you end up rage quitting. They are the rewarding part of the game and keep you engaged in completing the game in perhaps just one sitting.
All aspects of this game are very important. It hits the nail on the head when it comes down to the sound. It helps you know what’s coming next. Example of this is in chapter 3. It’s a night time area were you progress farther by hitting lanterns. You don’t realise you are being watched by what I can only describe as red eyed monsters. Their crawling sounds will have the hairs standing on your back due to the fact that you don’t know if they are near you or not.
The sounds of flowing stream water, down to the sound of Monroe’s feet crossing over a brittle bridge to gain access to the castle set the scene perfectly. If them sounds were absent from the game, I don’t feel that the full impact of the game would be realised.
There is also a challenge in the first area that will interest trophy hunters out there. Progress as far as the castle without firing more than 3 paint orbs. The only way you have a chance of getting this trophy is by listening to your surroundings. The environment is very alive and you realise this when going from area to area listening to the sounds.
The Unfinished Swan is a finished masterpiece in my opinion. It hits all marks on the head. Perhaps some people might be a little disappointed by the length of the game, but if you are someone like myself who enjoy short engaging experiences from start to finish then The Unfinished Swan is right up your alley.