Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finding Value in The Unfinished Swan

Image from
This week at PopMatters, I wrote about the The Unfinished Swan.

It's not officially a review, but in retrospect it pretty much reads like one. In year of exceptionally strong downloadable titles (e.g., Journey, The Walking Dead, Papo & Yo) The Unfinished Swan manages to stand out in a number of ways. First, it's a first-person game that isn't about mass murder, which is always refreshing. It also has a collection of game mechanics that could be easily split off into several stand alone games.

At another time in my life, this probably would have bothered me. "They could have gone so much deeper, made so many more puzzles, and had so many more levels!" my hypothetical past self would have argued. It's true, The Unfinished Swan paints with broad strokes when it comes to exploring the various abilities you have. However, when you consider the gameplay in conjunction with the plot, it's clear that the point of the game isn't to challenge you to paint as fast as you can or to stymie you with puzzles. The Unfinished Swan uses interactive systems to let you feel the game's central metaphor. I won't say too much more about this metaphor, other than it's been quite a year for exploring interpersonal relationships in games this year(again, e.g., Journey, The Walking Dead, Papo & Yo).

One thing that I didn't get a chance to comment on in the post was Terry Gilliam's voicing of the game's eccentric King. It's a pretty interesting choice on a meta-textual level, as the King plays a weird role that is part antagonist, part tragic figure, and part narrator. He's clearly a brilliant architect,, but his creations often turn out half-finished, misunderstood, or simply inscrutable. Gilliam definitely has a better track record than the King, but if anyone has ever had the idea to create a completely white, shadowless Kingdom guarded by a lazy giant, it has to be him.

In any case, I definitely recommend The Unfinished Swan. It may not be the longest game or have the most expansive world, but all its components fit together to form an excellent story.

No comments:

Post a Comment