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The Unfinished Swan review: A concoction of colour and craft

Giant Sparrow's experimental adventure brims with charm

Sony's incubation deals have produced this generation's most unique game experiences. For nurturing indie studio Thatgamecompany, and encouraging its experimental design tendencies, Sony was rewarded with a trio of transcendent games, each celebrated for exploring emotion and making personal impact.

It's latest partnership sees the platform holder take Giant Sparrow under its wings for The Unfinished Swan, a PSN exclusive that'll charm its way into your heart.

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In terms of ethos, The Unfinished Swan sits comfortably alongside thatgamecompany's fl0w, Flower and Journey, but its design sensibilities make comparisons with PC title Dear Esther just as apt. Like the Dear Esther, The Unfinished Swan is predicated on exploring the unknown from a first-person perspective, but it distinguishes itself with more substantial gameplay.

Monroe's Otherwordly Odyssey


The game's storybook flavour is best encapsulated by its whimsical Roald Dahl or Rudyard Kipling-esque premise. Orphaned protagonist Monroe's mother had always been much better at starting things than finishing them. When she died she left behind gallery of unfinished paintings, and the orphanage allowed Monroe to keep just one. He picked the Unfinished Swan, his mother's favourite.

While Monroe slept, the swan sprung to life and vanished. Upon awaking and noticing its absence, Monroe grabbed his mother's silver paint brush and followed the footprints through a little door he hadn't seen before. And thus begins Monroe - and the player's - journey through a strange kingdom.

Although Monroe's efforts to catch to the on-the-run swan and his feelings of loneliness in the absence of his mother underpin the narrative, the story's overt focus is the monarch of the fantasy land.

The quirky King is driven by the desire to create an aesthetically impeccable dominion, but he belabours to maintain a balance between his artistic vision and the conflicting needs of his people. As if that wasn't taxing enough, the King also struggles with issues of existentialism, as he endeavours to leave a lasting mark on the world.

Peppered around the game world are a number short poetic passages offering insight into the King's personality, life and exploits. These feed into the game's storybook stylings. Visually, they have the same minimalistic make-up as a child's story book; they're just a few lines of text and are accompanied by delightful illustrations. A female narrator delivers each short passage with a soothingly sweet voice, conjuring imagery of a mother reading to a child tucked away under a warm duvet.

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Like all good fables, The Unfinished Swan is a simple tale that - for those who care to seek them out - has thematic and character complexities embedded within it. Those not inclined to dig for meaning can happily get wrapped up in an endearing tale about a boy, a bird and barmy king.

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