The Unfinished Swan Review for PS3

Platform: PS3 Check Price
The Unfinished Swan screenshot
The Unfinished Swan screenshot

There's a danger in becoming enamoured with any game that eschews the grit and grunt of Triple-A gaming and emphasises beauty, calm and serenity. Perhaps it's a sign of gamer's malaise, perhaps the quality of Sony's recent PSN pseudo-indie releases, but I wanted to love The Unfinished Swan. I want to love every game really, but when an author's intent and purpose is so righteous and promising, you can't help but root for him.

It's with a heavy heart, then, that I have to declare The Unfinished Swan a letdown. This short-lived, artistically-worthy slice of downloadable eccentricity fails on that most crucial of fundamentals – it's just not much fun to play. You take up the role of Monroe, an orphan who is left with nothing more than a smattering of his late mother's unfinished canvas paintings, and a magical paintbrush that can splatter colour onto an otherwise shadeless landscape.

At first, the novelty of showering a white screen in black paint and revealing corridors, walls, stairs and statues is quite special. Clearly it's not something that's been done before, although some of the effects are reminiscent of the underrated platformer De Blob. Soon, though, that novelty is hastily replaced by reality; this is a game that has based its entire existence around one of the most annoying video game bugbears of all – not knowing where the hell to go.

As you walk around in first-person, relentlessly spamming your paintbrush to coat as much of the world as possible, the whole thing feels like busywork. For the entire opening section, there's nothing that could really be considered 'gameplay'. You're just walking and splattering. If the entire experience had been this uninvolved, we'd be looking at a much lower score at the bottom of this article.

The Unfinished Swan screenshot

Thankfully, then, as the charming story unfurls itself, so too do The Unfinished Swan's best ideas. It evolves into a fairly basic platformer for a while, before nodding to Flower and Okami, then even Limbo and Portal later still. Frustratingly, though, the game feels so satisfied in itself every time it presents a new idea that it overplays it. For example, reasonably early on you discover that your paintbrush is actually splashing water rather than Dulux; water which can give life to creeping, climbable vines. Fine. Clever, in fact. Instead of introducing this fairly simple idea and moving on, it becomes the only mechanic for a significant stretch of time, rapidly losing its quirkiness and just becoming dull.

PlayStation Move compatibility adds another layer of idiosyncrasy to this unusual offering, but much like the game itself, soon outlives its initial charm. The device is too laboured to handle the complexities of platforming, and the Dualshock just takes the stress out of play. And the package is rounded off with a collection of 'toys', in-game modifiers essentially, which can be bought with the currency of balloons which are dotted around each area. Unfortunately, there's no freestyle mode that lets you paint on a blank canvas; once you're done with the story, it's very much a finished swan.

The Unfinished Swan does save its best moments for the final third, and wraps up its two-hour playtime in a slightly abrupt but rather splendid fashion. If the rest of the game had shown this much endeavour and succinctness with its concepts then we could have been looking at another PSN classic to stand proud with Journey et al. As it is, though, The Unfinished Swan is little more than a pretty picture.

Version Tested: PS3

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Rickybobby's Avatar

Rickybobby

This is definitely not another EA Sports MMA. Now that's a real classic right Jon?
Posted 15:12 on 15 October 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ MJTH

Yeah the one before it didn't have DLC really (well KOTOR did on Xbox) and they have pushed arcade into it.

I think it's great that anyone can make a game now and for it to come out on a major console.

Like music it will be more quality orientated in my view.
Posted 12:38 on 15 October 2012
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH@ rbevanx

Yeah that's true. It's nice to have these services that sell smaller more stylised experiences, to in a way supplement the triple A boxed games. I like the epic experiences of full retail games, but it's nice sometime to jump into smaller title like the bit trip series or the thatgamecompany games.

Some may fine this strange as this generation has kind of been defined by the FPS, but I think this generation has had the most variety of great games, then a lot of the ones before it.

Edit: Also mark of the ninja comes out on PC/ steam tomorrow YEAH! My steam wish list is just getting bigger between now, and probably the steam Halloween sale.
Posted 12:34 on 15 October 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Clockpunk

You won't regret it James.

If I was MS and someone pitched to me "A stealth based 2D platform" I would have laughed tbh but my God it so works!!!
Posted 12:13 on 15 October 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

That reminds me, I *must* download the mark of the ninja trial! Just been so very busy... too many games!!
Posted 12:11 on 15 October 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ MJTH

Yeah a lot of games are marmite at the moment. I personally think this is a good thing actually as there seems to be more options rather than COD clones.

One of the best things of LIVE/PSN is stuff like Mark of the Ninja, Plants vs Zombies and Journey etc have a chance in the market now.
Posted 12:06 on 15 October 2012
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH

I've just read 4 reviews for this game so far, and it seem to be getting very mixed reviews, in the sense that people love it or are disappointed by it. A lot of sixes and nines. And what's interesting is that there are a lot of differing opinions on why it's should be a six or a nine. The only main consensus through all those reviews seems to be that the first chapter is the best.

Nice review Jon, it was a good read!
Posted 12:04 on 15 October 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Clockpunk

I think it's free on PSN+...Not 100% sure tbh but I will check it out if it is, as the game for some reason just tickles my fancy.
Posted 12:03 on 15 October 2012
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Clockpunk

Two-hour playtime? Wow... that's a shame. Despite not owning a PS3, this title did look very interesting, but I would want something a little more substantial. Can see it being a PS+ promo soon enough.
Posted 11:31 on 15 October 2012

Game Stats

6
Out of 10
The Unfinished Swan - No boxshot available.
  • Artistically worthy
  • Mechanically clever
  • Very abrupt
  • Feels like busy work
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: TBA
Platform: PS3
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: SCEE
Genre: Unknown
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 4,172 774
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