It’s been 4 years since we first caught a glimpse of the promise that Unfinished Swan holds. A white world that you slowly illuminates by tossing black paint splotches around the environment. It’s the kind of strange and inventive gameplay idea that works perfectly as a PSN title, but then everything went silent to the point that some even began to forget or doubt the game’s very existence. All that’s in the past, though, as Giant Sparrow have come out of hibernation to show off their brilliant little game once more and they promise that they aren’t just one trick ponies.
The demo started out with a short snippet of story. You’re a young man whose mother recently passed away. She was an avid artist and left behind many paintings, but the young boy can only take one to remember his mother by. Why someone is making a young boy who lost his mother and is going to an orphanage make a choice like that is beyond me, but he chooses the one painting his mother never finished: Unfinished Swan. Sadly life just hates this kid because one morning he wakes up and the painting is gone. Thus you go searching in the unknown for the unfinished swan.
You're then dropped into a vast world of white. It actually took me a second to realize that the game had started. Pressing R2 flung out a small glob of black paint which splattered to reveal the scenery around me. To my surprise I wasn’t in a narrow series of corridors like the initial teaser, but a large forested area. I slowly worked my way through the trees revealing a bench here, a fence there, and a lot more detail in general than I expected in a game that you can’t even see most of the time. After a while I came to a portion of the map that I couldn’t color-in no matter how hard I tried. Instead of splattering on the landscape the paint would simply float in mid-air before disappearing from view. Closer inspection revealed that this was a pond in the middle of the forest. Normally this would probably be something to avoid, but I noticed a set of golden footprints in the distance that looked suspiciously like they came from a swan, so I ventured forth.
After I got past the pond I went through what appeared to be a castle courtyard. Partway through this castle I noticed a single letter floating in mid-air. Tossing a paint splatter at this letter revealed a story about a king written on the wall. I must say that a world where you can't see diddly squat before painting it seems like the perfect place for hiding Easter Eggs and other secrets. I have no idea how people will find some of these white collectables within a white world, however.
The developers at Giant Sparrow have mentioned before that Unfinished Swan isn't just a one-trick pony, and the second section I saw certainly proves that. This time you can see everything just fine, and boy is it pretty. Having a simple colour scheme consisting of mostly white contrasting with bright colors makes for such serene presentation that you can't help but be mesmerised by the game. In this new area your black balls of paint are changed to water and the puzzles take on a different flavor.
Exploration is the name of the game still, but now you need to find things to interact with and work your way forward through the town square. Paddles connected to large iron gates can be opened by shooting your water orbs at them. Throw the water on some vines and they begin to grow until they encroach over the ledge you need to climb. Nothing mind-shattering like the first stage yet, but I have faith in these guys based on the first section I played.
Then my demo was done. It was difficult to tear myself away from this fantastical world but we all had other stuff to do and E3 was about 5 minutes from being over for the year. Ian Dallas from Giant Sparrow said they couldn't commit to an exact date yet, but that it would be releasing this year, and I for one can't wait. Here's hoping that when it releases the rest of the game is as equally captivating as the demo I played at E3.