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Review

The Unfinished Swan Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

The Unfinished Swan's childlike sense of wonder doesn't fully mask its simplistic gameplay.

A completely blank screen, save a tiny reticle, is what greets you when you first start The Unfinished Swan. You might stare at the screen equally blankly for a few seconds, anticipating the conclusion of a load that isn't happening. Instead, with no tutorial or instructions of any kind (unless you've looked at the controller options), you must grab your Sixaxis or PlayStation Move controller and experiment. You soon find you can shoot little balls of black paint with the press of the trigger, and the paint--if you spread it liberally enough--eventually reveals the contours of the first level, which you navigate from a first-person perspective.

As you make your way through the game's levels, the story is revealed to you in the form of an elaborate fairy tale about a king who craves control. You play as Monroe, a small boy who was placed in an orphanage after his mother's death. Allowed to keep one of his mother's many paintings as a keepsake, Monroe chooses her unfinished painting of a swan, and it's possible that the gameworld takes place inside this magical painting--or perhaps in a dream. The swan itself acts as your guide throughout the game, its footsteps leading you along the right path, and its occasional trumpets drawing your attention to important events.

It's not all black paint and feeling your way through the maps, however. As you get further in, The Unfinished Swan expands into a more traditional first-person puzzle game. On one level, you use aqua paint blotches to "water" a never-ending vine plant to make it grow over walls so you can climb them, for example. On another, the dark-on-light motif is reversed as you try to feel your way through a nighttime forest. While these changes are great atmospherically, they also emphasize the extreme simplicity of The Unfinished Swan's gameplay. You just walk around, point, and shoot. That's it. Sometimes the paint does more than reveal the level's structure, but it never does more than one thing (such as make vines grow).

Better throw some paint on it.

Thus, the puzzles in The Unfinished Swan feel more like a shallow afterthought than a way of enhancing your emotional connection to the proceedings--you just keep pressing the "shoot paint" button until something happens. Additionally, the game gives you plenty of clues in the form of assistance from the titular swan or from other paintings and maps you come across, which further inhibits your intellectual engagement. Outside the core activities, you fire paint pellets at balloons to collect them. Collecting these allows you to unlock new abilities to use in the game, which might make it simpler and quicker to throw paint around, lead you more easily to the hidden balloons, or allow you to access chapters directly from the main menu. But none of these new abilities meaningfully deepen or expand the core mechanics, nor do they add layers to the gameworld.

That gameworld is extremely sparse and minimalist. It's a striking aesthetic, and it grows somewhat more colorful as you proceed, but it tends to add to the monochrome nature of the game--in every sense of the word. There’s a fine line between simple and simplistic, and The Unfinished Swan ends up on the wrong side of it all too often. Your interaction with the game rarely evolves, and ultimately is secondary to its value as a work of art and entertainment. The storyline and sense of wonder, then, must bolster the primary offering--and they do, to a certain extent. But to experience this world to its fullest, you must discover (and shoot) semi-hidden story panels throughout the game world, which is a frustrating limitation given how the game relies primarily on elements other than gameplay to draw you in.

Strange sights await.

Nevertheless, there's much to admire about The Unfinished Swan, even if it feels, well, unfinished. The basic idea behind its paint-blotching mechanic is innovative, and you can imagine a fuller realization of it in a game yet to come. And though the storyline is childlike, it isn't puerile, and the denouement offers more emotional heft than you might be prepared for. More than anything, The Unfinished Swan feels promising, but promising gets you only so far in a work of art, and the truth is, this one just isn't ready for the museum.

The Good
Innovative painting mechanic
Fairy-tale storyline keeps you moving forward
The Bad
Shallow and repetitive gameplay
Easy puzzles fail to engage you in the world
6.5
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Discussion

0 comments
slainta
slainta

Am I the only one getting a feeling of nausea playing this game? I don't mean to troll, for real. Especially at the beginning the lack of perspective makes me sick! And the first person view does't help either. Too bad, because I kinda like this game.

Silacio
Silacio

worst review ever. this game is a work of art. from an indie developer. come on....

closeworldopen
closeworldopen

not to mention i can play this game in german, that isn't thrown into account

closeworldopen
closeworldopen

i am leaving gamespot for IGN

 

jet set radio 6.0

escape plan 6.0

 

i am quite sure they are being bribed

 

whitejackel
whitejackel

the price my be a bit high for most ppl, but i think games like this, i am alive and journey are worth it and i like suporting the companys that make them so ya. but i really like the game very diffrent and a nice change.

JayPearson4
JayPearson4

interesting concept but not worth the price. 

Mushushu
Mushushu

Not a bad game at all.  I feel that the score is accurate enough and coincides with my thoughts and feelings for the game.  Definitely worth playing and finishing though if you ever get the opportunity, at least.

SirenAries
SirenAries

i was gonna pass anyway till  the price drops. i wouldnt pay more than 4.99 for this. 14.99 is alot to ask for a few hours. felt the same way about i am alive and journey. good games, way too expensive for the content and no replay value. pass for me.

RDawg7
RDawg7

Dear Feedbackula...Hi. 

Powerwalk
Powerwalk

Dear Esther was Amazing i don't care if people say its not a game i enjoyed walking through the caves with max setting on my computer looked so good

IceJester45
IceJester45

Games like this are hard to judge. Artsy games like Fez, Dear Esther and Journey aren't very compelling from a gameplay standpoint, but I think all three are excellent games nonetheless. Even though they're not challenging and the gameplay is very limited, I find myself thinking about games like Dear Esther long after I beat them -- and that's something I can't even say for many excellent gameplay-centric titles like Kingdoms of Amalur or Borderlands 2.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

It's a decent game from an artistic perspective.

It would be better if the game was shorter, more condensed and there was actually less gameplay.

Another game for the Steam sale :)

fakharakhtar362
fakharakhtar362

Looks like this Swan was really*Puts on Sunglasses*UnfinshedYEAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

I'm not sure what to make of this one. Since it was announced I thought this was going to be more Flower than Portal (both of which I love), but hearing that it changes from painter to puzzler strikes me as a little bipolar. And by not really defining itself, it fails to excel at either puzzles or art, so why would you bother with it?

mateyman
mateyman

Still looks like a beautiful game. I can understand the score though.

CriticallyAnnoy
CriticallyAnnoy

I created this account just to ask this, is @Gelugon_baat this annoying? Mate can you just respect each of the commenter's opinion and just agree to disagree. Just play games instead of wasting your time prowling on different comment section, jumping on guys who disagrees with you. Seriously mate.

ydnarrewop
ydnarrewop

Oh the Metaphors!  A decent read  :)

obsequies
obsequies

ign gave this game 9 or 9.5...they also gave many other indies on the ps3 the same scores...those games on gamespot also got 9's yet this received 6.5.... inconsistencies are very questionable in the professional avenue of reviews 

mastertien123
mastertien123

People really want to make the games that they like look good , don't they ? If this game were to be a iOS game then i'll play , otherwise ... nope !!!

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

 @closeworldopen Yup. Just look at Mirror's Edge and Journey. 

I believe they changed Journey's review from a 7.5 to a 9.+ after fan rage.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

Journey is way worth its price though.

Pukshd
Pukshd

@SirenAries you have to consider the fact they indie, not much thing(not about quality)innovative ideas, intelligent use of few resources, they need money, so i consider

Pukshd
Pukshd

@Powerwalk Well, the game don't have even 2 hours, you crouch automatic, and they have this excuse of adventure, plot, but i pretty shure no one have understand a damn f thing P.S Not saying i'ts bad, i'ts just walking P.PS i also dind't understand a damn about it

woodyfr
woodyfr

 @IceJester45 I dream every night about Kingdoms of Amalur. Much more action and fun than being purchased by an unfinished swan. To each his own.

lmaocarrots
lmaocarrots

 @naryanrobinson Steam sale? It's a PS3 exclusive, produced by Sony Santa Monica. Not coming to PC anytime soon. 

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

It's definitely art, and its puzzles aren't hard enough to detract from it.

SirenAries
SirenAries

 @mateyman totally. looks great but man for 5 bucks more that a greatest hits title for way more game. too much for too little

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

 @CriticallyAnnoy  The guy is in EVERY SINGLE review out there. Check it out if you're feeling brave.

 

A moderator once told me Gelugon is not an alt account of a GameSpot employee, swearing moderators would catch it if that was the case. I'm still not convinced - and even if that's true I'd bet we're talking about a significant other or family member to one of the 'gamespotters'. Can't believe someone not directly affiliated would be this invested in being the permanent, 24/7 resident Gamespot staff advocate Gelugon is. 

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

 @CriticallyAnnoy   juz ignore if u saw that name lol, i did that all the time, and it will get less anoyying

evilweav
evilweav

 @obsequies I would argue the opposite. Overly consistent review scores, especially high ones, typically indicate a lack of objectivism. In any case, I'm happy there's still one review site that isn't contributing to the absurd inflation problem we're seeing with game reviews these days.

GreenReuben
GreenReuben

 @mastertien123 " If this game were to be a iOS game then i'll play" and you call yourself a gamer? smh

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

Really? Then how'd it win Game of the Year?

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

Well there's the fact The Unfinished Swan doesn't really have any 'action' in it, so...

mastertien123
mastertien123

 @GreenReuben iOS games to me are just for wasting time on the bus . And this game fall into those category to me after seeing the gameplay . But the game looks really artistic though .

indigoAK200
indigoAK200

 @naryanrobinson It must be nice to live in a fantasy world.  Give my regards to Stalin.  It's been too long since we've sat down for a beer.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @indigoAK200 Yeah and I believe Gabe said Steam will never come to Playstation, so so much for that theory.  The PS4 front will probably be more or less the exact same thing so there's no reason why not to enter this cycle.

Mikami said he'd cut off his head before his game went MP, and now it's on more platforms than any other game, so that's not such a strong theory either.

indigoAK200
indigoAK200

 @naryanrobinson Right, because there's all kinds of precedent for companies releasing competing storefronts on the PlayStation. 

 

Steam will never come to PlayStation 3 as a storefront.  Never.  There's no money in it for Valve this late in the cycle, especially since there's already a storefront for PlayStation 3 games on the PlayStation 3 called the PlayStation Store.

 

Which doesn't even touch on the fact that The Unfinished Swam will never be available for Steam.  It's not a PC game.  It will never be a PC game.  Not unless the universe turns upside down and Sony's right to the game suddenly cease to exist.  Admittedly, that's unlikely.

indigoAK200
indigoAK200

 @naryanrobinson  I think you forgot to take your meds today.

 

This game isn't available on Steam on any platform.  The only way to buy it is using the PlayStation Store.  Nevermind the fact that there is no Steam storefront available for PlayStation 3 in any legal capacity.  Which wouldn't help you anyway since the game isn't available on Steam.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @OddityInfinitas Ugh.  Maybe you could use Google or something and figure out the riddle for yourself.  Then you could come back and say something informed.

OddityInfinitas
OddityInfinitas

 @naryanrobinson  @lmaocarrots What the hell are you on about? This is only on PS3, Like Ratchet and Clank, or Killzone. Steam isn't some mystical portal were licensing and development deals don't apply.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

This isn't a type of game that you play to 'waste time on'. This is a game you play to experience something that you've never seen or done before, and to come away from it with a long-lasting impression. For goodness sakes this is NOT Angry Birds.

The Unfinished Swan More Info

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  • First Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    • PS3
    • PS4
    Unfinished Swan is a first-person painting game and the debut title from Giant Sparrow.
    7.7
    Average User RatingOut of 81 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate The Unfinished Swan
    Developed by:
    Armature Studio, Giant Sparrow
    Published by:
    SCEI, SCEA, SCEE, SCE Australia
    Genres:
    Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence