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|02-19-2013, 05:48 PM||#1|
The Unfinished Swan Review
I've never played a game like The Unfinished Swan. It's completely unique in both premise and mechanics. It's hard to really describe everything that makes it so amazing without giving it away, and that is something I could never do. Some may say video games can't be art, that there simply childish amusements. These people are dead wrong, and it only takes a few minutes with a game like developer Giant Sparrow's masterpiece, in order to see why. With a heart warming story, unorthodox gameplay, and outstanding visual design, The Unfinished Swan is everything I could want in a game. Trust me when I say, you need to play this!
The Unfinished Swan is, for all intents and purposes, a digital bed time story. Our young protagonist Monroe had a mother that loved to paint. But as much as she loved creating these pieces of art, she never got around to finishing them. When she passed away, Monroe got to take one of these pieces for his own, and he decided on The Unfinished Swan. But one day Monroe discovers that his beloved Swan has disappeared from the painting. So off he goes, diving headfirst into the canvas, and our tale begins.
The story of Monroe is, as I said before, simply heart warming. Narrated by one of the developer's aunts, the game is full of outstanding dialog and has no end of charm to show you. I particularly liked a segment about the kingdom's resident giant, who sleeps the whole day away, and is only to happy about it. Actually, I can't think of a point in the game that I didn't like in someway. It's all so perfectly paced and full of wit, that I fell in love with every new page of the story I found. I won't say anymore, because to spoil it would a great disservice to the game, but take my word that The Unfinished Swan is far more than just a paint throwing simulator.
I've already said The Unfinished Swan is rather unlike most modern games, and another reason is because it's a game that your meant to discover on your own. At the start your dropped into a blank white room, and simply left to your own devices on how to proceed. There aren't any tutorials outside of the controls, you just have to figure it out. I found this suited both the gameplay and the story perfectly, and with every new mechanic I learned I felt accomplished and clever that the game didn't have to tell me where to go or what to do. When every other game seems to be funneling you towards the end at a breakneck pace, The Unfinished Swan lets you go at your own speed, but without being to overwhelming or open that you end up lost. It should be stated that this is a very, very short game. It took me somewhere between 2-3 hours the first time through. This may sound extremely short for a game, but I found it just about perfect. Nothing ever outstayed it's welcome and got boring, there aren't any filler levels, and everything wrapped up very nicely. With such a modest length the game becomes very approachable. A lot of people don't even start particular games if they know they'll never have the time or skills to finish them, but anyone can finish The Unfinished Swan. And for those that want more out of the game, there are tons of balloons to find, as well as trophies to unlock, that I'm sure will have me replaying the game again and again.
Like the story, I'm reluctant to say to much on the gameplay for fear of spoiling it. The basics are that you throw blobs of paint to manipulate the environment. This starts out obvious enough, with painting walls and structures to find your way out of the white room. But this is only scratching the surface of the ways the game makes use of this mechanic. They're so consistently clever that I wanted to pull someone over to see every time I found something new. I advise you to play the game for yourself before looking at to many screenshots or videos, and to let others experience it when your done. There aren't many games I can think of where the gameplay so expertly compliments the story. It all feels just right, and that is truly a great feet for the developer.
Everything is in service to the games presentation. The story drives you along, but the environments are what keep you there. Everything has a very soft feel to it, and the way the game slowly adds color is simply beautiful. If I really had a fault, it would be that there seemed to be an odd ghosting effect. It made everything a bit less sharp, but after a few minutes it faded to the back of my mind and I forgot about it. This is one of the most artistically consistent games I can think of, with great care being put into making it all work together. Nothing feels out of place, everything belongs where it is. Simplicity has rarely looked so good.
The sound is just as impressive. The narrator does an impeccable job at bringing the tale to life, and I would be only to excited to have her back for subsequent games. The music is used sparingly, but always resurfaces when it needs to. It's incredibly dynamic, and I don't remember it not suiting the scene perfectly. The audio might be the games strongest asset, thank to the great voice acting and a score. I haven't been to impressed with game music lately, but I have a feeling I'll be listening to this on it's own, simply because of it's quality. The soundtrack of a game is always very important to me, and in this regard the game is excellent.
The Unfinished Swan is easily one of my favorites in recent memory. As soon as I beat it I wanted to replay it and go after the balloons I missed, and the story pages I never found. I also wanted to tell people about it. It's so unlike anything I've ever played, and each piece so expertly complements the other that I can only sit back and thank Sony and Giant Sparrow for seeing it through it's long development. With two more games already contracted, I'm eagerly awaiting any news as to what Giant Sparrow is up to. They've created an incredible game, that you need to experience as soon as humanly possible.
Final Opinion: 10/10 Masterpiece!