Average User Score: 8.3Aug 2, 2013The Backlog 2: The Unfinished Swan.
Developed by indie team and Sony protégés’ Giant Sparrow, The Unfinished swan is a surreal, often beautiful but ultimately flat journey into the mind of a studio bound for greatness.
Grown from a 2008 tech demo The Unfinished swan places the player in control of a young boy named Monroe who is on a quest to find an unfinished image of a swan as it mysteriously vanishes from a painting. Monroe is thrust into the world of the painting leading him into an adventure across a kingdom uncompleted by a king at odds with his subjects. While entirely devoid of people the kingdom is rich with environments and mechanics to help Monroe find the secrets of this unfinished world, the world that ultimately stays strong as the only compelling part in the game.
While some games struggle to keep momentum leading up to a crescendo ending, Giant Sparrows debut suffers from the opposite with the very opening being by far the most compelling. Dropping you into a completely blank world you are told nothing, the stunning sound design builds an environment around the empty space you inhabit. It is with that first splash of paint, revealing part of the space, that this game grabs you. I felt immediately amazed by the concept of a blank world revealed by the user throwing paint. The feeling of mystery and exploration is fantastic and the environments pop with stunning beauty as they are stricken with scattered explosions of black. I really felt the true beauty of this game when looking back from the top of a staircase, over the world I had unveiled. The splashes illuminating a world I didn't know existed gave a feeling of exploration and discovery that was wholly natural.
Unfortunately this does not last forever, as the game progress’ the controls are more frequently taken away from you in a manner that I felt was jarring and took me completely away from the experience. The world begins to be pre-colored and you are asked to use water to encourage the growth of vines to climb in a manner that feels like you are working your way through a puzzle, not exploring a vast mysterious kingdom.
Driven by the lackluster story, you move through a couple of differing environments, all with their own little nuances that fall flat making you feel nostalgic toward the once innocent exploration of the first level.
With a disappointing ending and numerous immersion breaking moments the story becomes empty and meaningless with myself feeling like I didn't really care about Monroe by the end in the same way that I did for the little boy in Limbo or the robed figure in Journey, two games that excelled at dumping you into a world to find the story, instead of being pushed through it.
The Unfinished Swan is definitely an attractive game with beautiful moments being offset by a middle riddled with a poor, Mirrors Edge looking city that isn't particularly pleasing to the eye. This coupled with frame rate issues when climbing vines or complex environments, and strange controls when interacting with climbable surfaces leads to a thoroughly disappointing game for a studio admittedly in its infancy. While a bit of a let down, The Unfinished Swan shows great potential for the studio and at this point I have to ask myself, with a 3 game deal similar to That Game Companys’ trilogy of Flow, Flower and Journey, if this is Giant Sparrows Flow, I cannot wait for their journey.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.0Aug 2, 2013Mike Bithell makes a game that is such an incredible joy to play, I hated having it finished.
Sporting hilarious narration, beautifully simplistic design and truly enjoyable mechanics that was only let down by the simple technicality that there was just not enough of it.
Originally finding its way into my life as one of the PS+ freebies for April, Thomas Was Alone was randomly selected to be the first game I've played in a long time on the dust collector called my PS Vita.
The story of Thomas is a simple one. He is an AI gone rogue, but an AI with a heart that is ultimately filled with friendship and heroism as he joins a band of other misfit AI to escape into the world.
Thomas, as the name suggests, begins the story as a lone jumping rectangle that you guide through various simple side scrolling levels. On your journey however you meet various other quadrangles of different sizes that provide different skills; including a short wide pink one that functions as a trampoline, a large blue square that cant jump very high but floats on water and a tall slim yellow one that jumps to enormous heights. It is in this part of the design that the games concept truly excels, instead of learning skills you meet friends, instead of fighting enemies you tackle the changing levels as a team, you must use your brain and work out the correct way and place to make use of each characters skills to guide you through the story, a concept I really warmed to.
Each shape is given unique personality and character via the stunningly charming and soothing narration by Danny Wallace continuing to add to the nonsensical depth of a group of shapes and giving you an idea of the importance of their adventure from their perspective. It is at this point where Thomas Was Alone really becomes an experience. The story narration, alongside beautiful music by Danny Housden, and lighting effects that are pointlessly beautiful, bring the mechanics of this little game to life. On face value this is a game where you play as a series of shapes jumping around a world, but the more you play, the more it becomes, making you care for the characters, cheer for them, vilify them and genuinely be happy for them as they progress through their journey, a journey that is all too short.
And it is here where my only issue, but a personal argument lies. At around 3 hours this game is short as you'd expect from the price point and genre but I cant decide if I want more. There is a fascinating commentary edition to play through that as a fan of movie commentaries I loved but what I really wanted was more to play in this world. However the issue I'm facing is that I feel much more would have devalued it, risked the ‘novelty wearing off’ or myself becoming frustrated at an eventually rising difficulty curve.
Thomas Was Alone is the beautiful vision of a single man that takes any ‘graphics over gameplay’ argument by the scruff of its neck and gives it a good smacking. You become engrossed in the story, the characters and the world in a way I haven't felt with any triple A games in a long long time and any indie games since Journey. Its low price point and short compact ‘experience it’ story make it a must buy with the latter being this games only downfall. Give me more.… Expand