The Unfinished Swan

Common Sense Media says

Innovative and poetic game with an uplifting life message.

Age(i)

2
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5
6
7
8
9
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12
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17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game encourages kids to think hard to work out solutions to navigational conundrums. Its story depicts a boy coming to grips with his mother's death by exploring one of her paintings in a dream, learning a lesson about hubris and how nothing lasts forever along the way.

Positive role models

The boy doesn't speak much, but is instead defined by the player's actions as he moves through the world trying to find new ways forward. He doesn't fight any monsters and is concerned only with learning more about the story of a king in possession of a magical paintbrush. His curiosity and interest in reading and painting are admirable traits.

Ease of play

For most of the game, kids simply move around from a first person perspective, splattering paint and water on walls. Later levels see the introduction of a slightly trickier task involving player-created platforms. Kids are bound to get stuck in a couple of spots -- moving around on vines that grow from the water can be tricky -- but they should be able to find their way forward with a few minutes of investigation and experimentation.

Violence

A level set in a pitch black wood involves animals that may attack and claw at the boy if he steps out of the light for too long. Players see the animals' eyes glowing red, and scratch marks appear on the screen. Get clawed three times and the scene fades to black as the game reloads to the last checkpoint.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

No privacy or safety concerns.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Unfinished Swan is a first-person adventure without any combat, though players may occasionally be attacked by monsters in the dark that leave claw marks on the screen. Its story is about a boy coming to grips with the death of his mother by exploring one of her paintings. At first blush, this theme may seem dark; but the joy of discovery and exploration combined with an optimistic and satisfying ending make it much more light-hearted than one might expect given the serious subject matter.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • reading

Arts

  • painting

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • deduction
  • solving puzzles

Creativity

  • developing novel solutions

Emotional Development

  • empathy
  • persevering

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

The game's final levels offer a sense of discovery and satisfaction, and the game is at once revelatory, smart, and uplifting. The paint effects present a few mild disappointments in what is otherwise a satisfying interactive experience.

Learning Approach

Kids can learn about puzzle solving as well as dealing with difficult emotions concerning life and death. They create art and objects and employ logic to proceed through a strange, magical world.

Support

Instructions are sparse. Kids are bound to get stuck in a couple spots, but they should be able to find their way forward via investigation and experimentation. They may need to search out player-created tutorials online.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • reading

Arts

  • painting

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • deduction
  • solving puzzles

Creativity

  • developing novel solutions

Emotional Development

  • empathy
  • persevering

Kids can learn about puzzle solving as well as how to deal with difficult emotions concerning life and death in this inventive and engaging poetic adventure. Kids create art and object and employ logic as they attempt to work out how to proceed through a strange magical world in which color and shadow act in unfamiliar ways. Along the way they'll take in a fantastical, allegorical story that helps a boy deal with the loss of his mother by exploring themes concerning the circle of life and the meaning of one's actions both during life and after death.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

Parents say

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Kids say

What's it about?

THE UNFINISHED SWAN begins with a boy who has lost his mother and is given one of her paintings -- that of an unfinished swan -- to remember her by. He soon finds himself inside the painting in a completely white space representing the canvas. The only way he can find his way around is to toss dabs of paint that splatter against surfaces, revealing their outlines and allowing him to get his bearings. As he works his way through this strange world -- which later gains a bit more natural color and definition -- he begins discovering storybook-like passages of text that tell the tale of an hubristic king. Through this king's story he eventually comes to understand more about his mother and learns an important lesson about how to live a life of both moderation and fulfillment.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This indie game has a few rough edges, but its message about the dangers of hubris and life lived in discontent -- cleverly delivered via a dreaming boy coming to grips with his mother's death -- leaves an impression that lasts long after the closing credits. Discussing the game's final levels here would ruin the sense of discovery and satisfaction that comes with it, but suffice to say that it is at once revelatory, smart, and uplifting.

The only problem is you'll have to put up with a few hitches to get there. Splattering paint to find your way through a white space is fun and interesting, but splash too much and you'll find yourself in a mostly black world that's just as difficult to navigate. And later, when you switch paint for water to grow vines along walls, you'll likely find that climbing these vines and going around corners and over ledges can be a bit frustrating. Still, these are mild disappointments in what is otherwise a thoughtful and satisfying interactive experience.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about art appreciation. What kind of art appeals to you? Do you think a piece of art can ever be absolutely perfect, or appeal to everyone? Or is art more subjective than that?

  • Families can also discuss the notion of hubris, or excessive pride. What dangers lie in thinking too much of yourself and being overly confident? How can you tell when you step over the line from deserved pride into off-putting cockiness?

  • Families can discuss the indie game market and why creative games like this one get released as a download.

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 3
Price:$15
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date:October 17, 2012
Genre:Puzzle
Topics:Fairy tales
ESRB rating:E10+ for Fantasy Violence (PlayStation 3)

This review of The Unfinished Swan was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySpaciousName January 25, 2015
AGE
7
QUALITY
 
LEARNING

Teaches about art, and positive and negative space.

Great game, innovative and fun. Possibly a bit frustrating and kinda short, but overall worth it. Sorry for not writing a proper review.

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