gamescom 2012: The Unfinished Swan Preview
Unfinished Swan is all about exploring a world in a children’s story book. The developer, Giant Sparrow, is creating a story that is your playground, affected by unlockable toys. A little orphan chases through a magical world, created by The King, after a Swan that isn’t finished. The king has a couple of bad habits; the first is that he doesn’t use very many colours and the second is that the places and things he makes aren’t always complete.
The first toy you use is a paint ball. To start with all you can see is white so when you discover the button for it, it flies from the middle of the screen. It then makes a satisfying splat on the white canvas. This way you can uncover the world to find your way through the level. There is a main path to the end but other diversions can be found that lead you to secrets that add a little extra context to the place you are exploring. This can lead to someone missing certain areas or items on the first play-through, so I see lots of replay value in catching the fleeting events and hints.
We were also shown a level later in the game that was a little different. The style had developed to building with softer colours and more of them, compared to the stark black and white of the the first level. This time the player had water bombs that he splashed all over the level, eventually using them to guide the growth of vines that he climbed up walls with. They grew to the area splashed with water in random snaking patterns all over the place. This made for some simple spacial puzzles where you led it to a topiary where it would grow into the shape to unlock something. Originally they were supposed to be like a pen when you took the end of the vine and drew a path for it, but that looked too complex and fiddly from the development video we saw.
On our character’s travels there were some balloons to find; collecting them lets you purchase more toys to play with. They are called toys because they aren’t always useful but they are good fun to mess around with. One we were told about was the ability to stop time – you can throw a ball and freeze it in mid air, and by freezing lots and unfreezing them all you can cover a large area with paint all at once. No use for solving puzzles but a great laugh.
While the environment shows you the story and progression of your character there are also narrated pages you can find that fill in extra bits of detail like the audio collectables from Bioshock. Like many children’s books there is also a darker side to the story; later in the game the puzzles are more complex and it was hinted that you may die in some unpleasant ways.
There are many more toys to find when you play the game and lots of space to explore for secrets. It looks great; the minimalistic aesthetic lets you really focus on the interesting details. It was also interesting to find out that people played it in different ways; the hardcore gamer sped through it throwing paintballs everywhere constantly. The casual gamer was slower and more considered, while the children sprayed the whole place black and enjoyed making a mess. I’m really intrigued to see more of it without spoiling the plot or puzzles for everyone!