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The Unfinished Swan

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Critic Reviews 80% add missing review

Game Arena (10 out of 10)

There are very few games which are able to buck trends with aplomb and do it this gracefully. Pick it up when you can and give it the time it deserves.

Nov 7th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Push Square (10 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is the second generation-defining downloadable from Sony in eight months. Giant Sparrow’s debut is a confident, creative tour-de-force – and it’s one of the most imaginative adventures you’ll ever play.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

The Escapist ( )

If you're looking for emotionally-stirring, minimalistic experiences the likes of Journey and Flower, you'd regret not diving into The Unfinished Swan the moment you can.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Inside Gaming (10 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is a dream, a dream journey that you can recollect when you wake up and want to share with all your friends because of how unlike reality was. The game constantly changes as you play through it, lending a feeling that anything can happen. It doesn’t pigeonhole itself into any particular style or type, it simply does what it wants as you tag along for the ride. The word unique gets thrown around a lot in gaming, but The Unfinished Swan is truly unique, an experience not to be missed. It will show you that games don’t need combat to be engaging, and they don’t need color to strike a chord with your imagination. Simply put, this is one of the best games of the year, and my very favorite gaming experience of 2012.

2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

TotalPlayStation (9.5 out of 10)

The latest in an outstanding crop of indie art games that we've seen this generation, The Unfinished Swan lives up to that legacy and provides yet another sublime experience that transcends the usual confines of video games.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Gaming Age (A-)

If you’re a sucker for artsy indie games that tell an interesting story and feature unique gameplay, then you’ll certainly love The Unfinished Swan. If you’re not quite sure what you’re getting in to, than wait for the demo or check out the trailer at the very least. Either way, The Unfinished Swan is a PSN game worthy of your attention.

Oct 22nd, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

PlayStation Universe (9 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is a fairy tale told beautifully through the cooperative effort of the game's graphics, sound, and intuitive gameplay. Polished beyond belief, its hard to believe that this Picasso is going for a PSN price.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

G4 TV: X-Play (4.5 out of 5)

In case it's not clear, I loved The Unfinished Swan. It's the sort of experience that requires us to further refine the definition of the term "video game." While there are certainly elements of play here, I don't think that Swan qualifies as such. Instead, it slides in along the likes of Goodnight Moon and the Shel Silverstein library as the latest modern classic in the realm of children's fiction.

Oct 18th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Games TM (9 out of 10)

It’s a game you can play to completion in a single day – leading some to dismiss the game as poor value – but that really is to miss the point. Every minute of The Unfinished Swan is beautiful to behold, stunning in its elegant inventiveness and, thanks to the way it constantly changes right up to the end, it holds the attention like few other games are capable. There’s a reason you’ll finish it in a day: because you won’t be able to tear yourself away.

Oct 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Console Monster (90 out of 100)

The Unfinished Swan is best seen as an interactive bedtime story. There are no enemies to kill, the threats to Monroe’s safety are few and far between and there’s nothing too taxing to figure out, but that’s not what this title is all about. If you sometimes tire of the triple A titles and enjoy seeing what else the medium of games can offer, or you have enjoyed creations like Journey over the past few years, then Unfinished Swan should be on your list of games to purchase.

Nov 6th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

IGN (9 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is short and the challenges you face in the two-hour game aren't all that challenging -- but they don't need to be. This is a storybook for you to open up and get lost in. Playing The Unfinished Swan is best paired with a cup of cocoa, a comfy blanket, and surround sound headphones. Tuck yourself in and enjoy.

Oct 14th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

HonestGamers (Staff reviews only) (9 out of 10)

It’s difficult to review this game. If I describe or explain too many things, that would be doing a disservice to you, the reader and potential player. This review may feel more like an endorsement than a proper critique, and for that I apologize. The Unfinished Swan is one of those rare gems that manages to evoke an emotional response through very simple means: simple graphics, simple characters, and a simple story. Nothing that I've specifically mentioned in this review extends beyond the first chapter, and it’s a great first chapter that is followed by three more great chapters and a bittersweet ending. The Unfinished Swan is not to be missed. Do yourself a favour. Clear a couple of hours from your schedule, download it, and play through it in one sitting. Perhaps you'll even come to understand my vagueness by the time you're done.

Oct 29th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Cheat Happens (9 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is one of those games that you won't expect to love as much as you do. It's a game about discovery, about growing, about taking chances, and it's also one of my favorite games of the year. It's a game that you absolutely need to get lost in. Pining for originality in games? Put your money where your mouth is and play this game.

Oct 30th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

GameTrailers (8.9 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is a treat for the senses, with thoughtful music and a poignant, elegant, and ever-so-slightly enigmatic story with tinges of the bittersweet, as well as humor and hope. This is the sort of game that offers up that rare spark of ingenuity that manages to thread both its form and function between narrative, aesthetics, and game design.

Oct 16th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Gaming Nexus (8.9 out of 10)

Giant Sparrow delivers one of the most unique games of the year. Sadly, The Unfinished Swan is a little too easy for its own good. Players can easily blow through the game in a couple hours. Still, the game's story is strong enough to keep you engaged from beginning to end. You've never seen anything like The Unfinished Swan before!

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

VentureBeat / Gamesbeat (88 out of 100)

You could argue that the unsatisfying ending leaves some room for a sequel or downloadable content (DLC). But gamers are not necessarily a forgiving lot. If you ask them to spend hours playing a game, and then deny them an interesting ending, the result may not be good. Just as the folks at BioWare who created the ending for Mass Effect 3. This ending isn’t as bad as that one, but it is ambiguous. This game started out with two people and grew to 12. And all of them get some extra-generous credits at the end. But it is astounding to me that such a small team can create a game that is as moving and inspiring as The Unfinished Swan. It is the kind of game that big game studios won’t make, to their loss.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

NZGamer (8.6 out of 10)

While the talented (and surprisingly small) team of developers at Giant Sparrow deserve immense credit for their efforts here, I think Sony also deserve a pat on the back for publishing unique art-house titles like this. In a similar vein to Flower, Linger in Shadows, and Journey, it’s these unconventional gaming experiences that broaden the mind and encourage imaginative discovery. While I certainly have a destructive side to me, it’s refreshing to be creative in a game rather than just blowing everything up. Here’s to more releases like this.

Oct 23rd, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Jeux Vidéo Network (17 out of 20)

A partir de quelques concepts simples et audacieux, The Unfinished Swan marie parfaitement fond et forme. Il lui manque un peu de substance pour devenir inoubliable mais le jeu de Ian Dallas dégage un charme irrésistible.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

ZTGameDomain (8.5 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is a wonderful experience that drew me into its world and never lets go. I am still thinking about it long after finishing it, and that says a lot. The impact it leaves is memorable, and it will go down as one of the most unique experiences I have had this year. I recommend anyone who enjoys stepping outside the box of traditional gaming give it a chance. You will be surprised just how much it sticks with you long after the credits roll.

Oct 17th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

PlayStation Lifestyle (8.5 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is a storybook, more endearing and entertaining than those old picture books. If you’ve got a child, or still know how to get ahold of your inner child, there’s a lot to love.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Defunct Games (B+)

Giant Sparrow delivers one of the most unique games of the year. Sadly, The Unfinished Swan is a little too easy for its own good. Players can easily blow through the game in a couple hours. Still, the game's story is strong enough to keep you engaged from beginning to end. You've never seen anything like The Unfinished Swan before!

Oct 18th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

GamesRadar ( )

The Unfinished Swan certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. Some may find issue with its two- to three-hour length, while others may find its focus on discovery to be boring. But there’s a lot to be found in that world made of invisible ink, and for those willing to experiment and approach it with an open mind, the act of uncovering it all is an exciting experience--even if you do have to get your hands dirty with a little paint in the process.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Digital Spy ( )

While some could rightly criticize The Unfinished Swan for what it is lacking, sometimes an empty space can still speak volumes. Just spray a dash of paint, and you may see that it isn't all that empty after all.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

GamezGeneration (8 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan zieht einen von Anfang an komplett in seinen Bann und versteht es, den Spieler bei Laune zu halten und ihm immer wieder neue, besonders optisch ansprechende Erfahrungen zu bieten. Mit vier bis fünf Stunden Spielzeit ist das Erlebnis zwar vergleichsweise kurz, doch dafür weist das Spiel auch keinerlei Längen oder künstlich gestreckte Passagen auf. Dennoch ist der Preis aufgrund der geringen Spieldauer mit 12,99 € etwas zu hoch angesetzt.

Oct 24th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Game Informer Magazine (8 out of 10)

Similar to Journey, The Unfinished Swan is brief, visually stunning, and more focused on the experience than with testing combat skills or platforming prowess. Some collectibles are available in the form of hidden balloons and storybook pages, which might bring completionists back for additional playthroughs. While I feel that the overall experience didn’t impact me as much as Journey, and won’t stay with me as long, it still has plenty of unique ideas to offer.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Joystiq ( )

Those seeking a literal interpretation of Monroe's journey may be left wanting as well, though I would argue such a pursuit misses the point anyway. The power of The Unfinished Swan – not unlike a Terry Gilliam film, coincidentally – lies in its engagement with our imagination, in its ability to remind us of that capacity for whimsy and fantasy. If your life could use a little less logic and a little more fascination, The Unfinished Swan should not be missed.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

AusGamers (8 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is entirely satisfied with being extremely interesting and lovely, rather than being the sort of larger, more crucial experience it occasionally seems like it might turn into. Its greatest ambitions are met with just enough enthusiasm and creativity to assure a fantastic experience, though, one worth pondering on just as much as it’s worth playing.

Oct 19th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

4Players.de (78 out of 100)

Ich habe The Unfinished Swan richtig genossen! Jede Minute in der ungewöhnlichen Kulisse ist aufregender als das Kartografieren herkömmlicher Spielewelten. Denn obwohl die Umgebung nur mit wenigen Strichen gezeichnet wird, schaue ich genauer hin: Ich muss die Architektur interpretieren, um voran zu kommen. Die Kulisse selbst gibt mir zu denken – meine ungewöhnlichen Möglichkeiten, sie zu beeinflussen sind der spannende Mittelpunkt des Spiels. So richtig passen die Elemente allerdings nicht zusammen, weil die Kapitel wie unabhängige Gedankenspiele wirken, die auf eine große Collage geklebt wurden. Die Suche nach dem Schwan hätte sich stärker auf clevere Rätsel stützen müssen, um durchgehend so zu fesseln wie in den hervorragenden ersten Minuten. Dass die liebevoll erzählte Geschichte ihrem Anspruch einer bedeutsamen Metapher nicht gerecht wird, unterstreicht das Gefühl der Leere.

Oct 17th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Jeuxvideo.com (15 out of 20)

De conceptuel, The Unfinished Swan se transforme en une forme d'apaisement à mesure qu'on progresse. Sans atteindre la maestria globale d'un Journey, le titre de Giant Sparrow trouve toutefois une véritable légitimité dans sa somptueuse approche visuelle, son histoire touchante et l'aspect fusionnel entre cette dernière et son gameplay. Si on lui reprochera une durée de vie limitée et une rejouabilité inexistante, il serait néanmoins dommage de passer à côté de cette expérience picturale issue de l'art avec un grand A et les contes pour enfants.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Destructoid (7.5 out of 10)

As it stands, The Unfinished Swan is a good way to casually wile away some spare hours. You can't complain too much about that.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Adventure Gamers ( )

At 3-4 hours in length, you can easily play through The Unfinished Swan in one sitting, and the sense of wonder that comes along with exploring this strange, unrealized place may lead you to do just that.

Aug 23rd, 2013 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Thunderbolt Games (7 out of 10)

But where Giant Sparrow’s narrative vision is clearly focused, The Unfinished Swan’s gameplay deviates rather rapidly from that opening castle of wonder. It never sticks with any of its admittedly varied and occasionally interesting ideas long enough to expand and iterate upon them in any meaningful way, and, after the twenty minutes, it simply never manages to reach the wondrous height of that initial gameplay zenith found in Dallas’ genius blank canvas opening.

Oct 22nd, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

PlayStation Official Magazine - UK (7 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan deserves high praise for being inventive, unique and absolutely beautiful. But this shouldn’t obscure the fact that these things apply more to the look and the core mechanic than the gameplay and how said mechanic meaningfully develops. The engagement with the narrative and characters isn’t on a par with that of the top titles in a similar vein, and there’s a lingering sense of what might have been. All of that said, £10 for two hours messing about in a beautiful dream world is pretty good value – certainly compared to a VIP night at the Playboy mansion, or a 3D showing of Rise Of The Guardians at your local Odeon.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Eurogamer.net (UK) (6 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is gentle and beguiling, but also thematically patchy and insecure in its own merits, choosing to constantly introduce less interesting new gameplay systems rather than fully explore any single motif. Impeccably produced and stunningly presented, it's worth playing just for the artistry of its construction - but it's a real shame that in attempting to lead video games in a more poetic direction, it can't quite finish the job, and ends up feeling as intellectually unfinished as the Jungian symbol it asks you to chase.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Game Critics (6 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan isn't without its charms, and there were moments in the abandoned city, with the vines overgrowing walls and bridges in all directions, that I almost loved it. However, in its very short runtime The Unfinished Swan introduces too many different ideas and doesn't sufficiently explore or refine any of them—not even the bad ones. That might suit the theme, but it makes for a game that feels frustratingly incomplete.

Dec 4th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Edge (6 out of 10)

If The Unfinished Swan didn’t do such a marvellous job of tantalising players with its patiently evolving visual signature, it would be easier to sense the messy whiteboard of ideas churning beneath the surface. It’s not that the game feels unfinished, just ungainly. What appears to be a swan during that opening stroll through the garden evolves into an admittedly handsome breed of chimera.

Oct 17th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

AllAboutTheGames.co.uk ( )

The balance just isn’t there. There are parts of this game I am glad I have experienced, and would easily make the list of great gaming moments. Unfortunately, the game as a whole is a tougher sell. In that sense, it really is unfinished.

Nov 11th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

videogamer.com (6 out of 10)

This short-lived, artistically-worthy slice of downloadable eccentricity fails on that most crucial of fundamentals – it's just not much fun to play.

Oct 15th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Retro Spirit Games ( )

The Unfinished Swan is a curious experiment in game design that initially impresses, only to lose its way over the short duration. It's a nice way to spend a couple of hours, but it is nowhere near as inventive or magical as some would have you believe. Stick with the far more engaging world offered in ThatGameCompany's epic 'Journey', or if you fancy some head scratching first person puzzles, look no further than the two Portal games. I am afraid I am too old for bed time stories.

Mar 4th, 2013 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Gameplanet (5 out of 10)

The Unfinished Swan is a beautiful puzzler and conceptually strong, but developer Giant Sparrow hasn't explored the concept far enough.

Oct 23rd, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Metro.co.uk (5 out of 10)

Not a very satisfying or enjoyable video game to play, but still a fascinating one to experience – with some beautifully stark imagery and ideas.

Oct 17th, 2012 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Gameluster N/A

This is a great game and any Playstation 3 or 4 owner needs to experience this wonderful game, while I don’t think everyone will feel the same way I do that is fine, this is simply something that needs to be experienced.

Jan 25th, 2016 · PlayStation 3 · read review

Player Reviews

An experience in actual exploration, tedium free – rare and worth playing.
by Kyle Levesque (934)

The Good
Well that's 2 for 2 this week in games rated 'E' that have surprised me wholly with the ingrained quality and heart they've brought. The Unfinished Swan is a grade more avante guard than Rain, but both are worth checking out. As part of my ongoing series of reviews of games in the Playstation Plus club 'Free Game of the month' series, here's a game that deserves it's status as an award winning innovator!

The Atmosphere

I almost feel remiss in making a 'Little Nemo' reference in my Rain review – I should have saved it for this game, because this is even more apt a parallel. The atmosphere of this game kind of reminds me of Quantum Conundrum, but honestly this one is a lot more inspired. From starting on a blank canvas and having to uncover detail through careful use of pure black on spotless white, to using water to both illuminate your way and solve puzzles, and grow plants – The Unfinished Swan invokes a pure sense of exploration in the player that is (almost) frustration free. Up until the latest stages there is no pressure – no rush, and that organic feeling of play really makes for a fun time. The austere environments of the early levels grow darker as you approach the physche at the heart of the painted kingdom, and your heart still leaps whenever you catch sight of your intended quarry. I was constantly left in awe of the few but well placed other animals in the game, from a predatory fish that seems to follow you, to red eyes in the dark that skuttle away individually but are bolstered by numbers...

The Game-Play

This is a shining example of simple but effective game-play, the same element that made a game like Portal a landmark (this game even has a one-room-omage to Portal). By taking a relatively simple concept (splashing paint) and making it into something more. In fact, every new chapter CHANGES the way that you interact with the environment – from sploshing ink, to tossing water, to making 3D shapes on blueprint paper. One of the most interesting points in this game is that you never fight anything in it. It's all pure exploration. You don't spend your time sneaking around and running away either, there's a short chase sequence and a few sequences where you need to keep ahead of rising water, but these aren't really conflicts. Why is this a big deal? Well, most games are conflict based, that's the way forward and keeping the player engaged. A game like... Yakuza 4 would be boring (and a lot shorter) without the street fights every 5 minutes or so. Any RPG, without random encounters, would drag out and feel like busy work. The Unfinished Swan never FEELS like busywork despite not having goombas or other minion type enemies to toy with. The item collection is also very well done – here it's balloons, which can be used to purchase additional features, toys, weapons, and tools. In fact, it only takes 5 balloons (which can be found within 10 minutes or so of gameplay) to unlock every level in the game, which is the complete inverse thinking to most games that are stingy with treats like that. The balloons range in difficulty to find from dead obvious to well hidden, but the purchase of a 'balloon radar' (only 3 balloons) will make this side-quest a more enjoyable and fruitful occupation. There aren't a lot of 'extras' with The Unfinished Swan; by the time you've played through the story and the credits (yes, you play through the credits) you will probably have everything you want out of the game. Which is a point in its favour as you can walk away without feeling you've left anything behind in my opinion.

Story

You'd think that if I had a complaint to make in a kid's game it'd be in the story department. You'd be wrong, actually I think the story is beautifully done. It's told in literal storybook pages and narrated by your grade 2 teacher. And although archetypal in places, the story is always humorous and contains a lot of adult humour if you know where to look for it. The foreshadowing for the plot twist at the end is pretty obvious, but in no way unwelcome. In fact, I'd guess a kid would be pretty proud of his or herself for figuring it out the first time through. As an adult, the story is even better because I can see the primary character (the King) as an adult and how sad the story really is – a story about a man given a godlike power, but like all mortals given such power he winds up abusing it, alone, and miserable.

The Bad
Short-comings

No game is without flaw, and this is no exception. Whereas I was ready to give 'rain' an award for being the perfect length, I can't do that with 'The Unfinished Swan'. This game should have done a final level requiring every trick the player had learned, and finished off the story or the big fish. You don't foreshadow something TWICE and then have no payoff, even if it does vaguely resemble a big-lipped alligator.

The Bottom Line
Bottom Line: This is one of those games that will go without a sequel and be fondly remembered by anyone who played it. If you have kids – get this game and let them play it. It doesn't have any annoying repetitive sounds to bother you, there's no singing or yelling, and it'll expand their minds. And it'll do the same for yours too, because this is a rare example of a game that lets you think and explore organically instead of confining you to a right or wrong decision. That' s a rare animal.

Aug 14th, 2015 · PlayStation 3

Plus 7 player ratings without reviews

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Alaka, Alsy, Cavalary, Patrick Bregger, Tim Janssen.