Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3
Rating: E 10+
Release Date: October 16, 2012 (PlayStation Plus)
October 23, 2012
Giant Sparrow brings a world that is a blank canvas for you, the player, to unearth in The Unfinished Swan. This PlayStation 3 exclusive is ready for you to jump in and explore the unknown.
The story revolves around a young boy named Monroe, whose mother just recently passed away. She had a passion for painting and was really good and beginning new projects. However, she was bad at finishing them and had a lot of unfinished paintings that she left behind, along with Monroe. When the orphanage told Monroe that he could only keep one of the paintings that his mom created, he kept his mother’s favorite, The Unfinished Swan.
Upon waking up, in the middle of the night, he noticed that the swan was missing off of the canvas. As he followed the swan’s footsteps, he is taken into a door, in his room, that leads him into a world that he is to discover through his paintbrush. As he chases this run-away swan, the swan leads Monroe through his journey where he will finally meet up with the King, the person who has created this all-white unfinished kingdom.
The graphics for The Unfinished Swan take on a story book type feel. The art is similar to that of which you would see in a children’s book, except each page would be a white canvas that is being depicted as the world is discovered. Since the world that Monroe discovers is an all-white environment, the ink he throws around, reveals the path that he needs to take, to get through this labyrinth.
The world consists of simplistic visuals, made up of a majority of a black and white pallet. There is very little color and that can be found in the statues and other unique items that are encountered throughout the game. Animals, that may propose a threat, are depicted in shadows. The graphics have a soft feel that emphasizes upon the storybook feel.
The player will also uncover story book pages on walls inside the labyrinth that reveal the story, as the game progresses . It offers the player a narrative experience as though you are actually playing out a story book, rather than just reading one. Emblematic statues, that appear in gold, in the world help tie in the game’s story and the importance of the existence of the place that is yours to discover.
Peter Scaturro, the Music Supervisor at SCEA Santa Monica Studios, previously stated that the music in The Unfinished Swan was inspired by the characters themselves. With the main character, Monroe, suffering through the tragic loss of his mother at a young age, the music does not contain a dreary feel, but rather one that plays on the adolescence of a boy out on a voyage of discovery.
You are greeted with ambient sounds that flow perfectly with the game and compliments the environment and all that exists in the game’s world. Not only do the sounds match the game, but also the gameplay itself as the music will also keep you on your toes and let you know if trouble is around the corner with the change in its tone.
The music and narration of the found story book pages of The Unfinished Swan is what you can imagine you would hear while watching a children’s program found on PBS- delightful, youthful, and flows perfectly with the story.
You take on the role of Monroe in a world that is a white, blank canvas. The player, in a first-person perspective, discovers the surroundings of the environment by throwing paint blobs around him. This reveals the path that is hidden before you. The blobs will turn up walls, bridges, walkways, trees, and other various objects and obstacles in the world. The setting is a labyrinth in which Monroe is to make his way to the King by following the swan. By painting the white world around you, it will give you an idea of which direction you need to go. The gameplay is very simple as you only us two buttons, one to jump and one to throw the paintballs. There are very few monsters, no health meter, unlimited paint, no timer, and no ammo, which adds to the game’s simplicity of picking up and playing.
Not only do you paint the setting, but there are also storybook pages hidden in white on the walls throughout the labyrinth. The player will spot them when you see a gold letter on the wall; this is usually the first letter of the page of the book. When you toss some paint onto the wall, the page is revealed about the King and offer up some details of his indecipherable actions and puzzling lifestyle.
There are balloons that you can splash with paint and collect to use as monetary value in the Toy Shop. To get to the Toy Store, the player simply presses the “Start” button, which allows you to search through various items that can be used in-game. One of the toys includes a hose, which allows you to fire paint balls at a rapid fire rate. The Clean Canvas erases the mess of paint that you made in the world, since over-painting can also end up hiding the environment, just as it was when it was all white. Another item you can buy is called Freeze Time that allows the player to freeze paint balls in midair (before they are shot), which will let the player shoot several, hold them, and then shoot them all at the same time to cover a larger area. The player can pick up a balloon radar which will then open up a radar at the bottom-left of the screen. When you get near a balloon, the radar will start to inflate like a balloon to let you know that you are close.
In certain parts of the game, there are various objects that you will shoot to help you on your voyage. One part, for example, you will need to shoot a wheel to get it in motion and this will make walkways accessible to you. Not only do you throw paint, but in some stages of the game, you are given water to throw. This will allow the player to shoot vines that will cause them to spread on walls, so that they can be used to climb on to get to higher grounds.
The game does allow you to play with the Move controller, as well. Since it had the paintbrush mechanic, I gave it a shot. While it works fine with Move, I still preferred going back to the controller. It could just be that the controller is my comfort zone and it’s much easier to pick up one controller to play, but, the Move controller handled just fine.
The game is not complicated and not very long at all. However, keep in mind, it is rated E 10+, meaning anyone ten and older can pick up and play the game. Since The Unfinished Swan can be played by using both PlayStation Move or a Dualshock 3 controller, the game will offer a different experience to the player. This is a good reason to take your Move controllers out of the storage bin and give the game a go with them, as well.
When you buy items from the Toy Store, you will find yourself tempted to replay the game to use the items. Plus, I wanted to go back in and get balloons that I had missed the first time around. Since the game is not too long, it is quite pleasant to go back and play and pick up some easy Trophies.
The Unfinished Swan offers a different type of story that taps into the emotions of a difficult situation that many of us have to deal with at some point in our lives. It is actually a great way for children to be exposed to it, in a manner that is not overwhelming for their age. The game is special and is also a great alternative to simply reading a book, since it is a narrative video game, with a message.
There were times in The Unfinished Swan where the game was not as engaging to take away from the repetitiousness of the gameplay. At times I wanted to get through the stage to get to more of the story. However, the overall package of the game is one of those gems that you need to play. It is in that special category that stands out from the typical games that we are all used to playing. It is a soothing game to sit down and enjoy alone, or with the family. The ease of the game allows the younger crowd to pick up and play it, as well.
The world itself is unfinished, but through Monroe’s paintbrush, you bring color to a world to not only find your path, but to also complete your journey through a complicated time. The message, the story, the simplistic gameplay, and music all combined together to make the perfect recipe of a unique and special gem.
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