The Unfinished Swan opened with a cutscene telling the story of a young boy named Monroe in a storybook fashion. Monroe’s mother was an artist who never finished her artwork, always intending to come back to it later. Sadly, her death made that goal impossible. One day, Monroe’s favorite painting, a swan, vanishes. Monroe then sets out in search of the swan.
Following that introduction, I was greeted with this:
Blank. Empty. Space.
Due to curiosity and the fact that the loading icon had vanished, I pressed R2. A black paintball splattered on the environment, revealing the floor. I shot more paintballs around and slowly the design of the world came into view. While I could have simply shot paintballs everywhere, at first I wanted to take it slow, try to navigate through the environment without covering everything with black paint. This means I was pretty good at getting lost.
At one point I came to a place where my paintballs wouldn’t explode, but instead float before something that looked like a fish swam up from below to eat them. I figured that I must be in front of a lake, and since I couldn’t step into the lake (it was blocked off by a fence, as well as an invisible wall) I had to find some stepping stones through it to get to the orange swan footprints on the other side.
As it turned out, this wasn’t the case. I pelted the water with paintballs, but I never found any sort of stepping stone. As I was just about to leave, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large serpentine shape dart through the water. This world was more dangerous than I initially expected.
Eventually, I realized that I had to find a path around the lake, using my paintballs to guide me, I found stepping stones leading across the pond toward those footprints. I continued my paint-led path, finding sculptures of a king with a golden crown, a pig, and a chicken and being tricked in circles by the construction of my environment. Navigation wasn’t as much a puzzle as it was learning to see and understand the way that the world was constructed. I often found myself tucking Monroe under ramps when I was supposed to go up them.
At one point, I saw the letter “T” emblazoned on a wall. Shooting it with a paintball told me a story about the King of this world, the same kind I saw a statue of earlier. I was told that each level in the game uses a different game mechanic than this first one I’d played, and each represents the King’s mind and art at a specific point in his life.
Then, after a bit more exploration. I saw the giant swan. I started chasing after it, only to fall down a hole in the ground that I didn’t see (I knew I should have kept tagging!) and the demo was over.
Food for Thought:
1. According to the Giant Sparrow rep, each level will have different mechanics. The black-and-white mechanics are only in the stage I played.
2. As the water dragon implied, later levels will kill Monroe, but the punishment for death will be minimal.