Running around and squirting paint like a shaking Picasso seems to be a popular trend in gaming these last few years. In games like Epic Mickey, De Blob, and Portal 2, squirting paint has been both pillar both when it comes to the visuals and the gameplay. It's simply fun. It appeals to the child within us and satisfies an almost primal urge to leave a mark on the world's we explore.
The Unfinished Swan (beautiful title for a game, by the way), starts with... nothing. A completely blank canvas. All white nothingness. I find myself wondering if the game has started yet. I touch the analogue stick and hear footsteps, but I have no visual feedback to confirm I'm moving. That's when I press R1 and a bucket of black paint is thrown out, it hits a wall and reveals a what looks like the beginnings of a large chamber. I squirt out more paint by repeatedly pressing the shoulder button. A wall, a corridor, a door. Later on a tree and a beach. A lake and some rocks that let me travers the water.
At first it's all about progressing through the all white world, and follow the only specks of colour that exist in this world of black and white - the odd yellow tracks footmarks from a swan. However, shortly thereafter, I'm climbing ladders, changing water levels, activating bridges, and make my way through labyrinths. As a secondary objective I collect balloons. It's somewhere at this point, when there is more to do, that my scepticism is swept the side and I fully embrace what at first glance appeared to be a shallow and pretentious premise. It's simply fun to explore this world.
From a design perspective it's both unique and beautiful. It looks very clean and stylistic, and even as shadows and more colours are added to your palette - Unfinished Swan maintains its characteristic look. And when I happen upon a snoring giant in a vertical level, my imagination is spurred on.
The game is presented as a story book and the story revolves around the blonde boy Monroe, who explores a fantasy kingdom where an excentric king has created an all white kingdom. Throwing paint and colours you learn more of the background story, and while entertaining it feels a bit too safe and child friendly. I would have loved for Giant Sparrow to present us with a darker story, and a more mysterious and unsafe world to explore, but this scenario does a good job nonetheless.
If you want a unique visual experience with a large portion of exploration you're well advised to spend a tenner on The Unfinished Swan. It may feel a bit on the expensive side as it can be completed in 3-4 hours, but the quality is there throughout and there's added gameplay if you want to collect all the balloons. In short, it provides us with painted on storytelling and a colourful concept. And Terry Gilliam makes a cameo...