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The Unfinished Swan Hands-on

30 August 2012

There’s something quite therapeutic about holding the PlayStation Move controller in the palm of your hand and magically flicking black blobs of paint onto a white canvas, but Giant Sparrow’s The Unfinished Swan isn’t just a game with a gimmick.

At the start, players use black paint to colour a white background by flicking the controller at different angles to turn nothing into something. As they do so the screen starts to fill and the player starts to move forward, pathways start to form and the environment comes to life as the world evolves into an interactive painting.

The Unfinished Swan is largely about exploration as you step into the role of Monroe, a young boy who has a spent his childhood in an orphanage after his mother died. To keep a memory of his mother, he took with him a piece of art that she painted called The Unfinished Swan, but one night the swan vanishes. Monroe follows the swan’s footprints through a doorway and steps into a surreal ink-flicking world where his search begins.

             

Though we’ve seen a similar kind of art-style with the likes of the PSN classic Journey, there’s a unique glow of satisfaction gained from seeing The Unfinished Swan spring into life from literally nothing; and we felt a tingle of anticipation from not knowing what we were about to uncover. As castles build and hidden pathways leading to collectibles emerge, Giant Sparrow’s goal of developing a game that “creates a sense of wonder” appears to have been achieved.

The pace of the gameplay is deliberately slow and the audio minimal through the first 15 minutes of play as you begin exploring the stark environment, wondering which way you’re supposed to go and what you might discover. As detailed pictures form, the simple black on white art-style doesn’t dampen the appeal, but serves to add to its mystery.

               

Splashes of colour begin to emerge in the form of collectibles ripe for players with a sense of deep exploration, while later levels show that The Unfinished Swan isn’t just a one-trick wonder by introducing various substances that you can flick at the screen. In one level, players use water to make vines grow through a courtyard to enable them to climb up and continue following the swan’s footprints.

Each level promises to offer something a little different in terms of visual style and gameplay, with puzzle-solving scenarios mixed up with periods of exploration, which should serve to give the game a certain level of structure and linearity. They'll also be an environment boasting a black background where players have to flick white paint to bring the canvas to life.

The Unfinished Swan may stand out as something of a novelty within a sea of loud, gun-wielding games later this year, but its slow pace, minimalistic art-style and unpredictable discoveries already feel totally refreshing. If Giant Sparrow can keep up that sense of wonder throughout the game then The Unfinished Swan could well be that breath of fresh air that PS Move has been crying out for.

A release date for The Unfinished Swan has yet to be confirmed. 


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