“If you can see art in everything, than you are an artist”

unfinished swan

“Please wake up!”

Once upon a time there lived a king who built a kingdom of white. He worked long and hard to perfect his kingdom as he saw fit, but soon found his interest drawn to creating a family of his own. Leaving much unfinished, he devoted himself to his wife and unborn son; however, his days of bliss were short lived and he swiftly became consumed by his work once again, fated to be alone.  It is in this realm of white that a young boy chases after the figure of a white swan – one of his mother’s treasured unfinished paintings, and the one he chose to carry with him to the orphanage. It is here that the boy will see things in an entirely new light; here where his adventure begins.

The Unfinished Swan, by indie game developer Giant Sparrow, is all about exploring the unknown. Viewed through a first person perspective, the game presents the player with a vision of white in its first active moments. Using either the Dualshock 3 controller or the Playstation move, players aim and send splotches of ink or black paint towards the endless sea of white, slowly revealing the hidden scenery and paths to travel. Small golden hints can often be found to help guide the player along the proper path; these hints may come in the form of golden swan footprints, golden sections of statues via a ring on a hand or a horn of a unicorn, or even golden letters signifying the page of a storybook.

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What is truly incredible about this title is the sense of awe and accomplishment that quickly encompasses the player. Throwing bits of black ink over a white canvas, creating as full a picture or as necessary a path as possible; the progress seen is incomparable. Whether it has been 10 minutes or an hour, turning around to look behind reveals a landscape you never realized existed. A bit of paint here, a means to get to golden footprints there and a touch of curiosity over on the other side leads to an artistic masterpiece all stemming from simple exploration.

The accompanying soundtrack adds to the perfect storybook tale as well as the player travels deeper into this color deprived land and story. From dark hallowing tones to medieval sounding harpsichord melodies, the game personifies the feelings of wonder, curiosity, amazement and even fear. Music so appropriate it is hard to discern where it begins and ends as the player is drawn even more into the experience.

As the game continues, black ink no longer becomes the only tool at hand. As shadows, light and darkness all take turns throughout the landscape, the player will be able to cast water droplets and create vines to traverse, throw light to remain safe and create 3D objects in which to stand upon.

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Although the game play is simple enough at the start, the later elements introduced transform this title from mere art and exploration to a piece of the puzzle genre; often giving the player much freedom in solving the challenges ahead. In addition to discovery, there are also various items to collect which can be used to purchase upgrades and enhancements.

The PS3 exclusive, The Unfinished Swan is a title that I have not yet completed entirely, yet the demo alone was enough to captivate and enthrall me. Although in a possibly simpler and unique way, the game already seems to liken itself to others of its caliber such as Journey or Ico. A fantastical journey of discovery and beauty, it is an experience that people should allow themselves.

So will you?

“Don’t be afraid.”

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