I seem to be more and more inclined to turn away from the big games that have been released since the inception of the new consoles. I mean I jumped on Dragonball: Xenoverse as if it were a disgraceful youth putting a dying animal out of its misery with my size eight feet and I’m incredibly stoked for Star Wars: Battlefront, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Fallout 4 and a whole host of games that have fallen prey to the recent trend of colon-isation and sequelisation.
But putting those games aside, the indie game genre appears to have taken me as one of their most adherent followers and subsequent jibes that I have become a hipster and only play games for that their art style and soundtrack, which is only about eighty per cent true. OK maybe ninety. But it’s not my fault that so many amazing games are coming from smaller producers who have the slightest clue about making games that people want to play over marketing them with shiny trailers and non-existent plot.
But this isn’t a review about the state of triple A gaming and the rise of indie games, for that you can go to pretty much any reputable reviewer who manages to maintain a regular posting pattern. But serving aside from this, here I go to the game I was actually meant to be reviewing from the start, the PlayStation exclusive from Giant Sparrow: The Unfinished Swan.
The game is told through delightful storybook pictures cut scenes of the protagonist’s (Monroe) mother who was good at starting pictures than finishing them, leaving Monroe with a collection of over three hundred unfinished pictures, with Monroe only allowed to keep one when taking in by an orphanage, with the one being the titular Unfinished Swan that was his mother’s favourite. Then during the first night at the orphanage, the swan disappears from its canvas. Taking up his mother’s paintbrush, he follows the swan’s golden footprints to the door he had not seen before and into a world which you must reveal.
Starting in utter blankness saving a small white dot only revealed by a tiny black outline, having to throw paintballs to reveal the story is refreshingly different and, having the world revealed with every paintball thrown is somehow soothingly therapeutic. I never knew how relaxing throwing paint to marvel in what you have discovered can be.
Looking back on a given section after you’ve wandered and splattered walls, floors, doors and much else besides, you delight in what has and hasn’t been revealed by what you have and haven’t hit. It’s quite simple yet leaves you feeling somehow quite artistic. Seriously, I’ve used the screenshot setting on my PS4, a feature that was withering like leaves in autumn, more times than with any other game purely due to the art I created.
The Unfinished Swan also has a riveting storyline of discovery, growth, and the need to create. As the young Monroe, you travel through this fairy tale setting, filled with kingdoms, giants, sharks and the scariest spiders that I have ever encountered in a game, with their crimson eyes waiting for you to walk into the darkness. Having to bring life and light to this place, and finishing what has been left half done, The Unfinished Swan allows you to go on a storybook tale with some deeper themes thrown in to get you thinking while you splatter everything with paintballs.
But when you are chucking paint at the nearest blank surface, The Unfinished Swan has some other brilliant game mechanic, like some mild puzzle sorting that couldn’t even befuddle a sleepy hedgehog, growing vines to climb walls, racing away from the rising tides, creating platforms in other dimensions and using light to escape the terrors of the dark (i.e.: spiders – viscous little buggers). There’s always something new to consider at every level and, although they aren’t particularly hard, it’s always a joy to be giving something else to do.
The Unfinished Swan is one of those games that, although only takes a few hours to get through, leaves you wanting to hear the story again, as all best stories should. It’s simple without being irritatingly easy, a delightful distraction that I will almost certainly find myself coming back to, with a smile on my face and paintballs in my hands, ready to discover a hidden world in a different but equally beautiful ways.