The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
About a week or so ago (at the time of this writing) a game that I had been greatly looking forward to by the name of, The Unfinished Swan was released. The Unfinished Swan is a downloadable title developed by Giant Sparrow, exclusive to the Playstation 3 console, and touted by many publications as the next big art-house title to be released on the digital front (the last couple title's being thatgamecompany's, Journey, and Humble Heart's Dust: An Elysian Tail). It wasn't long after reading through the game's plot synopsis, that I decided that I would include my 4 year old Niece, Hailee in my playthrough, as the story was something that could have been easily slapped onto the pages of a children's book. My intent was to see how both my Niece and I responded to the game, and to see if the title really could appeal to different age groups.
Before getting into our experience with the game, I'd like to establish something: Hailee - like all children - gets distracted incredibly easily, and cannot sit still through a single movie, or game very long before she's asking me to change out the source material. Based on what I had seen from previews, and our past gaming experiences together, I felt that Unfinished Swan's world could keep her attention despite those facts, as she was transfixed by games like Bastion, and Journey while I played through them.
I'll avoid plot details, so as not to spoil the experience for those of you who haven't played the game yet.
Anyways, after sitting through the opening sequence, and as the game opened up and Hailee, and I stared at the blank screen, I knew right away that the first splash of paint would intrigue her. Not knowing where I was, I threw out a paint blob and created a splotch on a wall. Hailee sat confused.
After throwing out several more plaint blobs, I discovered that we were in a small room, and our only exit was through a narrow hallway. As I moved forward down the hallway, flinging paint blobs like a madman, Hailee began to start playing 20 questions with me. "What are you doing?" "Where is everything?" "Where's the paint coming from?". The game had definitely caught her attention.
As I moved forward into the world, environments began to take shape, due to my continuous throwing of paint blobs. Finally, the first sign of life appeared, as one of the blobs connected with a giant frog. You see, Hailee hates frogs, and as the creature hopped away, Hailee asked me repeatedly to "go kill it". Well, the dirty work was done for me. The frog hopped into some water, and then something much bigger than the giant frog swam up and ate the poor thing.
It's safe to say that Hailee's attention wasn't going to be directed anywhere else for awhile.
We pressed on through the world, uncovering new environments, and new plot developments. We hunted down balloons (balloons are collectibles found throughout the world), and discovered pages that lent back-story to this beautifully mysterious world that we were wondering through.
It's when we found an enormous maze at the foot of a towering castle, when Monroe (the main character), Hailee, and I all let out an audible "whoa" simultaneously that I knew this game was something special.
The Unfinished Swan went from being "just another game" to being an unforgettable experience, as we got lost in this deserted land. Hailee was blown away, as we uncovered new pages, solved ingenious - albeit fairly simple - puzzle's, ran away from giant spider's in the darkness, and as we brought life to a previously drab world.
The story wrapped us both up, and made us laugh (There's a point where it's implied that some of the past inhabitants of the land had nowhere to use the restroom so they "relieved" themselves in some of the kings handmade pots), and at times brought about an air of melancholy.
Not since Journey, have I been so encapsulated by simplicity. In both games you're tasked with learning the history of the realm that you're exploring, and end up discovering things about the character that you play as, that strike deep down to a more human chord.
To say the very least, The Unfinished Swan successfully brought in two members of two different generations, and there wasn't a moment that I felt was weak, or a gameplay element that didn't belong. Once again - like in Journey - the game didn't present itself as a game, but as an emotional experience, that put story, and discovery at the top of it's list of priorities.
Many write the game off for being too short just as they wrote off Journey, but the point of these games is not to challenge you, but to embrace your emotions, and to take you to a world made up of oddities. Because of the purpose behind both games, they are both worth the fifteen dollar price of entry. I'd put that cash down again, and again for the same experience, because the titles are just that incredible.
The Unfinished Swan told a simple but beautiful story, based around love, and discovery of ones self, while presenting an adorably bizarre gameplay element. It won the heart of both my Niece and I so much, that we're currently working on our second playthrough, where Hailee has suggested that we paint the entire world. Unfinished Swan also achieved one other thing. It made me feel so much like a kid while playing through it, that the only way I could have felt any younger is if I threw on a pair of footy pajama's, went back home to mom, and watched Scooby Doo on my bunk bed. Call it weird all you want. I call it incredible.