The Unfinished Swan preview

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Sony has been making a huge push for independent games as of late, looking to make PlayStation Network the home for original efforts that deserve to find an audience.  Shawn McGrath’s Dyad is certainly making a few waves, as is the upcoming Papo & Yo.  Joining the party this week is The Unfinished Swan, a game that began development way back in 2008 under the guidance of a young Ian Dallas.  Now, with the help of his team at Giant Sparrow, it’s just about ready for its unveiling on PlayStation Network this year.  Ian and his fellow programmers recently invited us to get a first look at the game in action.

There’s an interesting story behind The Unfinished Swan.  A boy finds himself orphaned when his mother passes on, and the only thing he has to remember her by is a series of unfinished paintings, as she never found the motivation to complete them.  Upon being transferred to an orphanage, he’s told he can only take one with him, so he chooses an Unfinished Swan drawing, since that’s most endearing to him.

One night, the Swan actually disappears from the painting, and on his quest to go searching for it, the boy finds himself in an alternate world, one which was once ruled by a king and has now been left in a solid white state.  Seriously.  Everything — the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the statues — have been colored white.  In order to navigate his way through the world and find a way home, the boy must literally paint his way out by throwing paintballs at everything, staining objects a solid black (and possibly other colors later on in the game) and eventually finding his way around.

The way that The Unfinished Swan uses a world that isn’t there one minute and then comes completely to life is startling, and a rather neat effect.  Each object you hit with paintballs reacts to the splatters in real time, so you can see the forms of statues, collapsible walls and other things as you hit them.  It plays out in a first-person perspective, and it works remarkably well.  Furthermore, objects you paint stay painted, as you’re able to see by peering out into the distance and seeing what’s been impacted by your paint.

Along with painting your way around this white world, you’re also able to discover bits and pieces of the story, figuring out why the king left this world the way he did, and the significance of the swan itself.  You can also locate hidden items, including little swan footprints and balloons that you can collect in each stage, which enable you to unlock a few Trophies.  In addition, the game supports PlayStation Move, if you’re looking for a new game to support that peripheral.

Though it may look simplistic at first, The Unfinished Swan has a superb graphic engine — one that really sucks you in as you discover bits and pieces of the world during your journey.  It’s definitely a startling effort that’ll shake up the PlayStation Network, perhaps even in the same way Journey did last month (but for different reasons, obviously).

The Unfinished Swan also includes a mysterious “Toys” extra feature, though Dallas and his team are keeping that under wraps until around E3 time.  We’ll learn more about it then.

For a game that’s been in the works for some time, we’re happy to see that The Unfinished Swan will soon be, um, finished?  Released.  Yeah, that’s a better word.  We’ll let you know how it’s progressing when it shows at E3 next month

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Robert Workman
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