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
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.