WeView: The Unfinished Swan

While Journey may have taken the lion’s share of PSN plaudits for 2012, it wasn’t the only piece of simple beauty to hit the service. The Unfinished Swan also arrived, and while it perhaps didn’t get as much end of year recognition as Journey, it was still one of the most interesting titles that was released in 2012.

It also had our most interesting review of the year, or probably ever, at least from a presentation stand point. Alex busted out some clever technology for it (you can read about it here), although it wasn’t the technological feats of the game’s paint splatter system that he pulled out as the game’s biggest achievement. It wasn’t the story either, although he did call it “exquisitely melancholic”.

[drop2]No, for Alex the game’s biggest achievement was the way it simply left you alone, allowing you to get on with things yourself. It’s rare for any game to do this any more but the way that The Unfinished Swan literally gives you a blank canvas is something special in and of itself.

Alex called the feeling this leaves you with “nothing less than freedom, a sense of pure independence that escapes the medium like nothing else before it,” and it’s clear to see why. It’s probably the most extreme example of an exploration mechanic you can have, leaving you to not only discover what’s in the world but the world itself.

What’s clever about the game though is that despite this sense of freedom the game manages to keep pushing you forwards, with “wonderful level design [that] draws you back in quickly” should you lose focus. Alex praised the game’s “surprisingly delicate guidance” that urges “you forward without ever making it obvious.”

While Alex didn’t find any major problems, he did note that as the game moves forwards and the mechanics expand that it “simply doesn’t feel as tightly produced and honed as those opening few levels do,” and at points it edges “towards the developers trying to do too much.” He did also point out that “there are moments of pure genius (and possibly madness) in the game’s latter sections,” so it’s clear that the game doesn’t exactly fall apart once you move past the almost blissful opening area.

Ultimately he rated the game at 9/10 and had this to say in conclusion:

There’s something powerful about The Unfinished Swan. Initially it’s the unrivalled glee that the sprayed ink provides – something we’ve never seen before – but ultimately it’s about the ink on the pages of a bedtime story. An elegant, fragile tale that slowly grows from wide-eyed learning and exploration to a looming darkness. Tragic, powerful and thought-provoking, but also intelligent, witty and beautiful – Giant Sparrow’s debut is begging to be played.

So there you have Alex’s views on flinging paint and for the first time in 2012 it’s time to ask you for your thoughts about the title. Did you enjoy it as much as Alex clearly did, or did you not find the whole thing quite as freeing as him? Did you love flinging paint around, or could you not quite get to grips with it?

Whatever your feelings about the game you can share them by dropping a comment below. All we ask is that you attach a rating to the game, and as The Unfinished Swan is only available on PSN we’ll be using our digital rating scale. You can rate the game as Buy It, Plus It or Avoid It, with Plus It meaning that the game is only worth picking up if it’s available discounted or free on PlayStation Plus.

If you do feel like taking part you’ll need to get your comment in by Sunday afternoon so that we can post the community’s verdict of the game on Monday.



  1. I’ve only played the first few chapters, but there isn’t much pulling me back in to be honest. The only real draw is that you occassionally make some wonderful silhouetted scenes, but that gets repetitive or ruined with too much paint. The constant pressing of the “fire” button and noise if annoying, and so far the puzzles have been rather basic. The story-telling is ok, but nothing special. It would be unfair to write it off due to me not having played much, but those are my thoughts on what I’ve played so far. For £9.99, I’d certainly try and play it on someone else’s PS3 first, as there are some great PSN games for that price, or less. It’s certainly different though.

    • I agree with Youles, I think I’m on the third or fourth chapter but it’s not gripping me. There again, neither did Journey but at least that had the common decency to be short.

      I think £5.99 is a more realistic price but i’d suggest waiting for it’s inevitable inclusion in PS Plus so PLUS IT.

      • Phew, I was worried I’d get a torrent of abuse for blasphemy crimes towards indie/niche games! Glad I’m not the only one.

        It just doesn’t feel like a game as such. The presentation is lovely and all, but it just hasn’t lived up to the *cough* TSA *cough* hype so far. ;)

    • I have to agree, unique experience, with a few enchanting moments but i’ve no urge to ever load it up again, unlike Journey which i loved.

  2. Played it for about an hour and never went back. Cannot see the appeal unfortunately. Journey all over again. AVOID

  3. personally i didn’t get the point of either of these games?
    finished journey and i am about a third of the way through swan…cant see me finishing it though?

  4. Hannypoppie and I fired this one up (especially after such a glowing review) and never went back. It left us cold and the narrative felt very stilted when the story progressed.

    Gutted really when I think how much love we had for Journey, Limbo, etc. Appreciate that they’re very different games in many ways but still. Bugger.

    Plus It.

    • I think young kids would probably enjoy it a lot, the story is a bit like something you get on Cbeebies.

      • Yep the music and tone kept making me think i was playing something aimed at kids.

    • What is Limbo like by the way? Ive played only a fraction of the first level and am actually stuck in the game :S Can;t get across a small pond.

  5. Had been interested in this for a while so bought it yesterday. The opening chapter left me with mixed feelings. The completely blank game was really interesting to fill in, but as soon as you fire more paint blobs than you want it just makes it look ugly. But it was nice to just turn around and see the world you’ve painted in. Trying to find balloons was tricky as well!
    Second chapter I find it’s a little too “filled in”, you don’t really create the world for yourself which has disappointed me. Still there’s a few little challenges, the vine one I loved. Hopefully further on there;s a return to the blank canvas opening chapter type of gameplay.
    Story is like a bedtime story as well, very simple to follow, no depth :)
    So no verdict from me as I’ve only played a little.

  6. I enjoyed The Unfinished Swan. I longed it out over a few weeks because I didn’t want it to finish too quickly! I agree they maybe tried to do too much towards the end, but the first few levels were absolutely superb. Found it much easier to get into than Journey. Incidentally, I spent ages deciding what to spend my £20 PSN credit on and finally decided on these two, only for them to be bundled together and sold for a tenner a week later. Great. Anyway, I’d say buy it.

  7. I really enjoyed The Unfinished Swan. It had a simplistic beauty about it, and I found it very calming to play. Apart from the chapter where its all dark and I was being chased by spiders. Other than that I felt very relaxed playing it.
    I found it a little short, but it has got some replay value with finding all the balloons and story pages. But I don’t know if I will play it much after I have got everything, even though I have really enjoyed playing it.
    I bought it as part of the £10 bundle with Journey and felt it was very good value for money for both games.
    I would buying it, simply because it is enjoyable and relaxing to play and a bit different from the normal xxx

  8. The difference between Journey and Swan is atmosphere. Swan has next to none.

    Sure, it’s well made and the gameplay is interesting… for the first 5 minutes. It soon becomes a tedious gimmick. But the worst offense is the lack of direction, of narrative, of atmosphere. The music in particular couldn’t be more generic.

    To say that I was unimpressed by The Unfinished Swan is an understatement.

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