The Unfinished Swan

PSN

> > Feb 05 2013

The Unfinished Swan - PSN
By Joshua OstroffThe Unfinished Swan is like the neck of its titular fowl: thin, beautiful and ultimately twisted. Like its better known PSN compatriot Journey, the downloadable art game basically drops you onto a blank canvas with no instruction beyond "go forth and explore." Except this first-person puzzler offers a literal blank canvas — the opening chapter features a stark white world that can only be seen after you lob black paint balls to bring your environment into view, with splatter-revealing swamps, structures and that blasted bird. Consider it maximum minimalism. The game is a meta-fairy tale, with Shel Silverstein-influenced art design about a boy named Monroe whose mother dies, leaving behind 300 unfinished paintings. He chooses the swan canvas to bring to the orphanage, but somehow the bird flees its framed coop and so he/we leap inside to chase the swan across a series of ever-stranger kingdoms, following the yellow-webbed footprints from the initial blank one to a shadowy coastal city to a jet black, monster-filled forest while collecting storybook pages to propel the plot-within-the-plot along the way. (That plot being about an insane king who created the labyrinthine worlds we're now navigating.) At one point, the paint becomes water, allowing us to also grow vines that let us climb walls. At another, the world becomes a perspective-twisting mix of M.C. Escher and Portal. (There is more weirdness afoot, but should be left to you to discover.) Meanwhile, like every good fairy tale, the wide-eyed wonder eventually turns tragic. Unfinished Swan was hatched by newbie auteur Ian Dallas; his Giant Sparrow studio got an "incubation" assist from Sony's Santa Monica studio, which previously worked with indie wunderkinds like thatgamecompany (Journey) and Queasy Games (Sound Shapes). As admittedly more a collection of cool ideas than a cohesive package, Swan is not quite on par with those other two 2012 downloadables, but it demonstrates a bold dedication to experimental design, art and gameplay while announcing Dallas as a creative force to be reckoned with. Can't wait to see what he comes up with once he's a little more polished.
(SCEA Japan Studios/Sony)
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