In recent years a new sub-genre of games has emerged, this being games as art. There is no denying in recent years that games are evolving, graphics have been improved and just about any modern game could be considered art, however there are particular games that fall into the category of art, as an example the game Proteus is widely considered to be art. But the Unfinished Swan is art of a different kind, it is literal art.
They say a picture says a thousand words and this is clearly the case with the Unfinished Swan, as the games title suggests this is about something called the Unfinished Swan, a painting of a swan that was never finished. The painting itself is just of a swan but behind every picture is the gateway to another world, a place where imagination can run wild and entire kingdoms can exist. Generally speaking this game very much stays true to its name, this world is unfinished, but this is not because of an issue with developers and being lazy, instead this all lines up as part of the storytelling.
The story of the Unfinished Swan follows the recently orphaned Monroe who only has one thing left in his life after his mother dies, a painting called the Unfinished Swan. When he wakes one night he discovers the painting is empty and a mysterious door has appeared, upon going through the door he enters a strange world with very little colour. What follows is an extremely engaging story about a king and his kingdom that ties in the world and becomes enjoyable right to its conclusion.
The plot of the Unfinished Swan plays out a lot like a storybook and focuses more on the idea of art and allowing the player to experience the world. Marked throughout each section of the game is little pieces of story, all these different points are interesting to find and really put into perspective some of the world’s issues. As I said storybook, while you explore this world you can consider your own theories about what is going on, but things are at its best when you discover the next page in the story as you get perspective.
Personally for me this story is as interesting and inviting as it is sad, the story sections found throughout use a softly spoken female voice to tell a story of a king and his kingdom. It is a sad tale which shows the kings flaws, as it explains the king’s unwillingness to move from his perfect vision of a kingdom. While it also tells the sad story of his subjects and how they reacted to his stubbornness and eventually undermined him and his rule and left the troublesome kingdom. The voice used for the narration is used to great effect and really helps feel for the problems that happened, though everything I said is barely scratching the surface of a much greater story.
The Unfinished Swan is interesting, right from start to finish things seem to be constantly evolving, as the story progresses so to do the ideas which are all relevant to the games storytelling. At the first minutes of the actual game we are dropped into the world with little direction, all around us is white and this acts as both a means of puzzle solving and developing the story. The entire first area is white and you need to use your paintbrush to shoot little balls of ink to display the environment and assist in navigation, which I honestly thought was really interesting.
But the further in you go the more things seemed to develop, the world builds and eventually comes to life as the story progresses and little points are detailed. The progressive building of the world is a great feature and this really helps to tell the story but also see how things changed as the kingdom was developed, and it is clear a lot of thought went into getting this world right.
One of the better things with the Unfinished Swan is that I never felt like my hand was being held as I went through the world, the game never actually tells you the solutions to problems and leaves it up to the player to get through things themselves. The only real guiding force to the game is the Swan but this is story and telling where you need to head next. The interesting part is that this game plays out like an old fashioned game of cat and mouse, you are constantly chasing the swan through the world but every time you think you are getting close it just barely moves out of reach, the swan is simply your guide and I liked the fact that he is just giving you a tour through the world as you try to catch him. This never feels like handholding and instead just a great method of indirect guidance pushing you to see more of what this world has in store for you.
In total The Unfinished Swan takes around two hours to beat, this means that as great a story as the game tells it also never outstays its welcome. This short amount of play time is perfect for the game as this story and idea does offer plenty of value making it easy to go back to the game without worrying. It’s an ample playtime which makes the experience better and shows you don’t need many hours of game time to make a memorable experience.
The Unfinished Swan is a beautiful game in just about every way, from the well-made world, then to the well-made and memorable story. Even if The Unfinished Swan is short (which isn’t a bad thing) the magic of the story is long lasting, the story is so well told and beautiful that it truly stays in your head. This is a great game and any Playstation 3 or 4 owner needs to experience this wonderful game, while I don’t think everyone will feel the same way I do that is fine, this is simply something that needs to be experienced.