The Unfinished Swan review

You’re a boy named Monroe and you’re chasing after a swan that has escaped from a painting. Sound like a bad acid trip? Well, it’s actually much more innocent than that.

Monroe awakens in an orphanage following the death of his mother. A very glum start to a story.. I know. But there it is. His mothers favourite painting is of an unfinished swan, missing its neck and one night it goes missing. Monroe leaps into the blank canvas and gets transported to a mystical world where he tries to find the fleeting fowl.

The Unfinished Swan started out as a student project at the University of Southern California. When the demo caught Sony’s eye in 2009, the development team were hired to finish it as a game intended for release on PlayStation Network. And here we are, the game has arrived for PS Plus members as an exclusive before it releases to all a week later. Did the the Giant Sparrow team manage to create an experience that transcends the initial three year old tech demo? Why, yes they have.

The world is a blank canvas

This game has a very unique introduction. When you start the game, you’re just presented with a huge white screen with no hints in the interface as to what you should do next. So you eventually push some of the buttons on the controller and your shoulder buttons just happen to shoot paint from a paintgun you carry with you. The paint sticks to all the surfaces of your surroundings, slowly revealing the geometry of the landscape.

You’re playing through a first-person perspective shooting paint in every direction possible, trying to find out where you should go next. As you progress through the chapters, the world unfolds in bright new colours and slowly introduces new game mechanics to you. Without giving too much away, I can reveal that one of the gameplay changing mechanics is a change of your paintgun to a watergun, shooting small blobs of water. This can be used to guide sprouts of a vine to new areas, which you then can climb up on over walls to otherwise unreachable areas. It’s a really cool mechanic, that gave me the same discovery feeling as the first time I played Portal or the first time I had to manipulate the different gels in Portal 2.

The concept of painting on surfaces to reveal where it’s safe to go doesn’t get tiring, since the game does a good job of offering variation. You also have to keep an eye out for balloons to hit, as a way to find collectibles throughout the levels.

The Unfinished Swan is one cool ride

The developer did a great job creating a fun gameplay with new mechanics, sprouted from a cool out-of-the-box concept. The experience is fairly short however and the game isn’t meant for a mature audience per se. If can look through the somewhat juvenile story telling and easy challenges, you’re in for a pretty cool ride. I would recommend The Unfinished Swan to anyone looking for something different, but don’t expect a mindblowing adventure.

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