Sometimes, we all find “that game.” It’s a title we know we are going to find interesting, but are not sure we will enjoy, and most of our friends will probably not want to hear about… and we buy it anyway. For me, this probably happens a lot more then I would care to admit… and this would be one of them. The question, however, is was it worth it? I believe the best answer I can give you is “yes.” Not a “FUCK YEAH!” but… “yes. Im glad I played this.”
Story: The story of Unfinished Swan is actually two stories intertwined. You play the roll of a young boy who has never known his father and who’s mother had recently died. She loved to paint, but never really finished any of her pictures, and the orphanage told the young boy he could only keep one of these, along with his mother’s paintbrush as an heirloom. He picked her favorite, a painting of a swan.
Then one night while he settled into bed, he heard a swan outside his bedroom door, and being naturally curious, he went to investigate, but when he opened the door, there was nothing there: just white empty space. Still, he could have sworn the swan went through here, and promptly headed out to begin his adventure.
The story from this point on is told in literally every detail of the game. As you complete each of the 4 chapters, you will get a detailed piece of the story explaining how the young boy’s adventure progresses (beyond the parts you play), but the worlds themselves tell another tale entirely of the king who walked this path before him. As you play, the details and why they are as they are will explain this story both by observation of what he left behind and through notes you will find to read his in between sections.
This game, being more about story and world exploration then anything else, relies heavily on this plot for the experience, so outside of explaining the formula, I really can NOT talk much more about it for fear of spoilers. All I can say is it is two fairly simple stories twisted and told together fairly well, and ultimately feels like a very complete, if simple, picture when you finally see it all.
Graphics: There is one word that very effectively covers the graphics of this game, and that word is “minimalist.” Most of the game uses simple white for everything, not even trying to use shading to give definition you and leaving you often in a completely white world where NOTHING stands out.
However, in this case, this “art” follows the form of the game’s design, as it will be up to you to reveal the much of the world by throwing ink blobs all over the place. The results of this is that most of the game is even more minimalistic looking then Anti-Chamber was, and how good it looks is actually going to depend on you as often as not. If you know when to stop flinging ink, the world will often look both messy and at the same time uniquely clear compared to any other game you played. If you don’t know when to quit, you will likely just cover the world in indescript darkness and be left with just as unimpressive a game as you did when it was all white with nothing to distinguish the details of the world.
Of course there are plenty of times where you will find your flinging water instead of ink, making this much less permanent, and/or looking for entirely different results then coloring the world you are in. And when this happens, while white is still the dominant color, you will see shaded areas and possibly even some blue, green, and yellow objects throughout the adventure, but these will (with the exception of one early scene) never really be all that impressive.
The real downside, however, is on the technical side for this game. With such simple color direction and minimalistic art, I fail to see the need for this game to run in standard definition only. Being a PS3 game without using much power behind it, this is a major disappointment.
Sound: Unlike the graphical areas of this game, there is literally nothing to complain about with this game’s audio portion. The sound effects, despite being exceptionally limited by design, are absolutely perfect for what they are. Every splat, sploosh, and leaf rustling is just perfect.
Nor is the voice acting going to disappoint you, either. With all of 4 characters who talk (and the child’s voice acting being limited to a few words and cries of surprise for the most part), this game manages to make them all matter and fit their part well. There will be nothing here that will leave you scratching your head… at least for how well it’s performed.
But the real star of the game’s sound is the music. Unfinished Swan’s music is fully orchestrated and an absolutely brilliant companion to everything that is about to happen on the screen. If you like classical orchestra work, you may well find yourself just wanting to listen.
Gameplay: When it comes to what you are actually doing, Unfinished Swan is a very simple game. There is very little that can threaten or hurt you. Instead, the game is based on 1st person exploration where you will discover how splashing ink or water (chapter depending) interacts with the world. At first, this is as simple hitting the world around you to reveal it in the way the splashes are left behind, but the game adds more to it as you go, deepening the game as you move along.
Every chapter has it’s own surprises, making for a varied experience despite the limits and simplicity of the game itself. But discovery of these surprises is half of the game, so revealing them here would be a disservice to anyone who wants to play. Just know there are some really interesting things done with this mechanic, but it is literally the entire game. When I call this game simple, I mean it is simple.
Bugs: This game had literally no issues while I was playing.
Overall: When you get down to it, Unfinished Swan is that odd game that is not about the gameplay or the story, but the experience and how the story is told. It’s about the skill with which these parts are executed and the cleverness in their use. To this end, the game comes through in spades, resulting in a minimalist, but exceptional experience you will thoroughly enjoy the first time, but have no desire to do again once you finish and have seen it all. And you will finish it in a very brief time, as the game is only 4 hours or so long. Though that is probably for the best, because by that point you have explored everything you could expect to be done with the core mechanic the entire game is based on, as well as a few things you probably never saw coming. In essence it’s a very well done art game.
However, this game is not for everyone. Players who are looking for less of piece of art and more of a traditional game are going to hate this title and should avoid it at all costs.
Source: PlayStation Network