You start off in a white room with white floors and white walls and a white ceiling. Everything is white, and you might not even realize that you’re in control at all until you start pressing buttons on the controller. Tap forward and you’ll hear footsteps, move and you’ll notice an aiming reticule dart across the screen. Press a shoulder button and you’ll lob a blob of black paint, which splatters into the environment, giving shape to the shapeless. Then, and only then, does the world around you begin to form and become navigable.
Splattering paint is like feeling around in the dark – you don’t know what you’re surrounded by until you’ve explored it. After working out of halls of geometric shapes you start to find more complexities. First crates, then wagons, then trees, then an entire forest. Eventually you lob paint onto a frog, which peacefully leaps into the water. Serenity is shattered when the frog is devoured by a giant sea monster, illuminated, again, by paint. Things aren’t as innocent as they once seemed.
Above: The first teaser only gives a taste of what the game has to offer
The Unfinished Swan is everything you think of when you picture an indie game – impressive, stylistic, and incredibly original. Sony scooped up the developer, Giant Sparrow, after seeing a prototype of the game at the Tokyo Game Show, and now it’s prepping its artistic journey for the PlayStation Network. We had a chance to see a portion of the first level in action, and it was absolute mesmerizing.
You enter the world as a child whose mother – a painter – had a habit of starting but never finishing her works. When she passed away he was forced to choose only one when he left for an orphanage, and opted to take her favorite: the titular unfinished swan.
And so the game begins, and you’re whisked away into a mysterious world filled with… well, white walls. But as you dig deeper you begin to find glints of color, standing out amongst the monochromatic surroundings. Yellow swan prints will drive you forward, giving you a goal, while golden ornaments atop statues give the world some character.
Other objects also stood out when set against the blank white slate with mixed results. Storybook pages added some necessary lore, whereas balloons, the game’s obligatory collectibles, actually felt somewhat forced, fitting poorly within the otherwise inviting, serene world.
Also standing out was a golden crown, which was covered with paint to reveal the face of a king. This King apparently wasn’t an especially good king, and his story, too, would be slowly unveiled throughout Unfinished Swan’s story. Near the end of the first section of the first level you turn and see the world you’ve left behind – the whiteness of it tarnished by splattered paint. Giant Sparrow said that this moment of reflection would be different for everyone, since each player tested left a different mark on the world.
The Unfinished Swan looks like it has all of the components to be a magical experience. We were told that the game’s four worlds would all be different, and that the “throwing paint at white environments” was only something that would be explored during the first 1/4. If the other sections of the game are as inventive as the one we saw, then gamers will be in for something truly unique when it releases later this year for the PSN.