Picture yourself in a labyrinth where all walls, the floor and the ceiling are white, and it's impossible to make out the space of the corridor in front of you. Imagine the same scenario with the labyrinth filled with mysterious crates and objects that are also completely white. You're blind, and sound is, all of a sudden, your most important point of reference. That frog makes a sound when you approach, and even if you can't see the beach you can hear the waves coming in, and your feet touching the sand. To aid you in this white world you have a bucket of black paint to spill on the environment to help you identify walls, park benches, little animals and the road ahead.
It's the simple yet interesting concept that makes up the core of the experience in The Unfinished Swan. What started out as a student project with Giant Sparrow a few years back, is now an ambitious PSN title with backing from Sony and SCE Santa Monica Studio.
You're playing as the young boy Monroe who follows a majestic swan into his late mother's unfinished painting. The canvas starts out all white, and it's up to the players to use paint to follow the tracks of the swan into the next painting. This mechanic could surely have been the foundation of some clever puzzles, but The Unfinished Swan is more about exploration and progressing forward. And even if Monroe will be able to fail on his mission, there is no hint of a combat system.
In a game world where literally anything could be hidden in front of you, there is plenty of opportunity to surprise the player, and this is something Giant Sparrow assure us there will be lots of even if they are unwilling to share any details at this stage.
Giant Sparrow is a very small and unproven studio, with about a dozen employees. If we compared the material we were shown with a version of the game that has been posted on Youtube a few years back, it seems that neither technology nor mechanics have advanced very far. What we're left wondering is whether the final version will have more to than just splashing out paint to find our way from A to B.
There is no doubt that The Unfinished Swan holds a lot of promise, and that we could be in for something very special, but it is also important to keep expectations down even if it's easy to draw parallells between Giant Sparrow and Thatgamecompany who also grew as part of Santa Monica Studio. Giant Sparrow did express an interest in some kind of multiplayer component, where all of a sudden you could come upon an unknown spot of paint who's track you would then follow without communicating with the other player, a bit like what we experienced in Journey.
It's sounds like a brilliant idea, but multiplayer is one of the many ideas Giant Sparrow have had to skip in order to finish the game this year. Hopefully they have kept enough good ideas in there for The Unfinished Swan to feel complete once it hits PSN. With that said, we're excited to lose ourselves in the emptiness of the white canvas...