"What am I supposed to do?"
"Play", said the soft-spoken Ian Dallas, Creative Director of Giant Sparrow, moments after I sat down to experience The Unfinished Swan for the first time. No exposition. Just, 'play'.
"And don't be afraid."
The Unfinished Swan begins in what appears to be a white-washed world. Untouched. Pristine. A 'fairy-tale landscape', as Giant Sparrow puts it. There is no immediate sense of detail or design; it is simply you, and the all-encompassing unknown. Similar to the oft praised Journey, The Unfinished Swan is not a conventional gaming experience. As such, the game is left intentionally vague as to motivate you to 'play', and to figure out its core mechanics for yourself. And it isn't long before The Unfinished Swan begins to reveal itself to you – quite literally.
And so, I played.
The Unfinished Swan casts players in the role of Monroe, a young boy who has wandered off into a surreal, unfinished kingdom in pursuit of a swan. Said swan is a curious one as your feathered friend has kindly left a trail of footprints for you to properly give chase. From a first-person perspective, The Unfinished Swan is set in a world that has been waiting for you to bring out of hiding.
A press of a trigger button allows you to toss a black ball of paint into the air. Once that ball of paint comes into contact with the surrounding world, it splatters to reveal all sorts of spectacular details, mainly a path on which to proceed.
The more paint you childishly heave into the air, the more is revealed to you. Do not let the surreal presentation startle you, The Unfinished Swan indeed feels incredibly grounded and surprisingly real. The world of The Unfinished Swan is a living, breathing thing. Everything from the physics of the paint spatters to the detail of the slowly unveiled environments are a marvel. Trees and park benches wonderfully manifest as you ceaselessly hurl globs of ink all over the place.
There is an unmistakable sense of child-like wonder that is deeply ingrained in The Unfinished Swan, one that is not so easily shaken as it illustrates what you were always told not to do as a child: to make a mess. The Unfinished Swan embraces its whimsical premise with such delight and such relish where it almost feels as if Giant Sparrow is cheering you on, "Show us your mess!' I could certainly gather as much by the expression on Ian Dallas' face as he looked on during my playthrough of the demo with such a fantastic grin. The Unfinished Swan honestly does make you feel like a kid again, all with the luxury of not having dear ole Mom & Dad to tell you what you can and cannot do. That feeling is what propels The Unfinished Swan forward; you cannot help but create as big of a mess as possible, to even go where you should not be going. After all, what is the outside world to a child but a grand and mysterious place that is begging to be explored. How ever much of it you care to experience though, is entirely up to you.
Giant Sparrow promises that splatting the world with black point isn't the only aspect of The Unfinished Swan that you can look forward to. While the title begins with simple ambitions, it " quickly moves on to totally different mechanics and totally different kinds of landscapes." Set to be released exclusively on Playstation Network later this year for a yet to be determined price point, The Unfinished Swan continues PSN's trend of bringing one of a kind videogame experiences to PS3 owners.