Sometimes, the best story is a short story. Non-casual gamers may yearn for those games that took 40+ hours to finish, kept them up late at night, driven ever forward by epic storytelling across fantastical worlds (read: gamers can be size queens). There was a time where, when you saw a game that took up less time than a Grindr hook-up, you’d scoff at it as casual trash (again, like Grindr). The paradigm has been shifting, though, and we’ve been given the 3-hour beauty of The Unfinished Swan.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away (it’s short, moving, and you should play it, dammit), but in The Unfinished Swan you play as Monroe, a boy armed with a paintbrush, who finds himself chasing after a swan through a colorless, abandoned land (no rainbows means all the fun gays moved out and I so everyone left out of boredom). The only way for you to see where you’re going is to throw a gob of paint and see where walls and gaps are. Luckily, things start to take form themselves before this gets too frustrating, and you’ll gain some fun new abilities with the brush.
The best moments of the game are the moments when something unexpected happens. That is an obvious statement, surely, but what makes them especially awesome is that on several occasions, something would happen to make me say ‘Woah’ out loud. Not even a second later, I hear Monroe say the same thing in game, just cementing the sense of wonder that the game creates for both characters and players. Even the first time you splat something on the wall, you can’t help but feel like it’s some sort of amazing Jackson Pollock simulation. Though, you'll find some things you can't splurch your paint on, like windows and already colored things. Is it so wrong to see a window and want to paint it black? (hur hur)
I only wish the game were longer. Not because I feel like something was left out, but more because I feel like I want more of this world. Despite a shift in tone towards the end of the story, it’s a bright, beautiful and fun world that you’ll want to explore. You can go back and collect balloons (which unlock extra options), which adds a little more fun, but I would have preferred a few more areas. You may feel the end comes all too soon, but sometimes it true what they say: it’s not the size of the game, but how it satisfies.