There’s always been a debate over whether or not video-games are art. And although that’s a topic for a different day, after playing The Unfinished Swan, I can say that this is strong evidence that games can indeed be considered art.
Developed by Giant Sparrow, The Unfinished Swan is a touching game about a young boy named Monroe and his journey into an artful world. The story of Monroe, as narrated by a motherly voiced woman, is both a sad and sincere one.
After the death of his painter mother, Monroe is left alone with the option of keeping only one of his mothers hundreds of unfinished paintings. He chooses his favorite, you guessed it, the unfinished swan.
One day, he realizes the swan is missing from the painting and a mysterious door appears out of nowhere. Upon entering this strange door, Monroe is transported into an artistic world with nothing but his trusty paintbrush.
You start the game in an all-white room with no hint as to what to do. No instructions on the controls; nothing. After pressing different buttons on your controller, you figure out you can throw black paint at your surroundings, coloring in the invisible world around you.
This concept is not only an intriguing hook, but is also brilliantly executed. Not in a long time have I played a game that grabbed my attention so quickly as did The Unfinished Swan.
Seeing the hidden world come to light not only appeals to the child in all of us, but also to the artist. You are free to paint the world in any way you want, which gives the gameplay a personal touch that’s most appreciated.
The first hour or so of The Unfinished Swan is exactly as I’ve described it; you wonder around painting the world to figure out your heading. But just before the one-hour point, the game introduces an all new mechanic that completely changes the game.
The Unfinished Swan could’ve been an entire game about throwing paint, and I would’ve still loved it. But Giant Sparrow crafts it in such a way so that new gameplay mechanics are introduced just as the previous one is wearing thin. Not only does this keep the game from feeling to repetitive, but it makes it a changing experience that never stops being interesting.
As fun as all this is, the best part of this game by far is its story. The Unfinished Story’s story is a heartfelt and touching tale of a boy who just wants to discover more about his own parents. The writers did a fantastic job of creating a story that isn’t overly touchy-feely or to sad. It’s the perfect balance of emotional and exciting.
Rather than laying down the rather heavy themes on the player all at once, The Unfinished Swan feeds you tidbits of information little by little from its beautifully illustrated cutscenes and snippets of hidden story elements in the environment.
There are numerous paintings to be discovered in the game world, and finding them is not only a pleasure, but it also gives you more information about the great story that you can feel moving just beneath the surface.
All the bits-and-pieces of the story revealed throughout the games 2 or 3 hour play time all build up to create an incredibly touching climax that hits all the right notes that left me thinking about The Unfinished Swan long after the credits rolled.
As great as this game is, there were some aspects of it I wasn’t a huge fan of. As much as I loved the different gameplay mechanics introduced later in the game, they didn’t wow me in the same way as he paint did, and the last thirty or forty minutes introduce a new tone and play style that nearly becomes a chore to play.
The primary mechanic other than the paint would be the splashes of water you use to guide vines across the environment to help you scale structures. And although it’s beautiful to look at and keeps the game from feeling repetitive, it’s just not as fun or intriguing as the black paint in an empty world concept.
Towards the end of game the pacing seems to slow a bit, and there were certain sections where the changed playing style felt a little too out-there and wasn’t near as fun as the first half of the game. Thankfully, the last fifteen minutes re-ignite the wonder I experience in the first half of the game, and all the pieces come together for a beautiful finale.
Overall, The Unfinished Swan is a beautiful, touching game that is worth both your time and money. If you own a PlayStation 3, you need to go buy this game from the PSN as soon as possible. Even with the were few problems I had towards the end of the game, The Unfinished Swan is beautifully crafted game that deserve to be played.
Story: 9/10 – The Unfinished Swan packs one of the more touching stories I’ve seen in a game in some time and it should not be missed.
Gameplay: 8/10 – The Unfinished Swan’s gameplay is fun, but simplistic. The gameplay design is rather amazing, but its execution sometimes wavers, especially near the end.
Presentation: 9.5/10 – From the brilliant storybook-like menus to the amazing, varied environment, this game delivers in almost every facet of its presentation.
Graphics: 9/10 – The artistic graphics really help sell that you’re in a fairytale, and outside of a few bland instances towards the end, is a brilliantly animated game.
Replay Value: 8.5/10 – At about 2 or 3 hours in length, The Unfinished Swan isn’t to long to get boring, or to short to feel like a waste of money. And the abundance of collectibles will no doubt keep fans coming back.