The Unfinished Swan: Negative space meets positive vibes.
The credits are rolling, the book is closed, seats are emptied as crowds and players alike march out of the stadium. Did you enjoy yourself? More than likely, you saw it through to the end and you aren't that much of a masochist. Why do you feel so empty then, guilty, even? When you aren't actively engaged you start to second-guess everything, it's self destructive and self motivating in a whirlpool of conflicting emotions. This self loathing is perfectly normal, if you didn't occasionally experience this remorse you would technically be host to an antisocial personality disorder. We're hunters at heart, and we will always crave the chase more than we cherish the rewards we've earned.
"He liked it -- time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
-Marthe Troly-Curtin, "Phrynette Married" 1912
There's something magical to a game that strikes one's emotional cords. When done well it's subtle and resonates with your experiences in a way others can't possibly relate to. The children's book presentation deceives players to think little more of the game; but the chapters within touch on subjects that your average child can't wrap their head around. The falls of our hubris, the passing of time and our impending mortality. The paragraph above is just one man's interpretation of such themes, who's to say another will feel the same, or feel anything at all in that moment?
There's no way to go into the depths of the game without spoiling the entire premise. Spanning a mere four hours, The Unfinished Swan is fleeting as the white on a canvas. After a brief introduction cinematic the player is dropped in an empty world and left to their own devices. This low running time is effective to a fault, enabling quick entertainment but hindering the longevity of the title. Instead of offering a deep, enriching levels that expand on it's established mechanics, they opted for brief sectionals that offer slight variations on how your abilities are used, you'll never spend more than half an hour in any one of these situations. It feels wasteful, and ironically it's much like leaving a portrait unfinished, and it's a serious shame. There are some truly unique features that will never see their true potential.
Games can be a medium for more than just entertainment, most games avoid that venture, and that's fine. The great thing about art is that it is purely subjective. Rarely do titles go down this path of attempting to carve a new experience, never mind the more daunting task of successfully delivering their message without it being tossed out as if it were just another grenade in the fray. There's a fine line balance between being entertainment and ending up a sermon, The Unfinished Swan ends with the satisfying "thud" of a hardcover book closing, there's a finality to it, and given that it's message sunk in, you'll be left smiling.