Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a trail of yarn behind you at all times? Then Unravel, a cute platformer from Coldwood Interactive and EA, is for you. It can be finished in a couple of sessions, but the central mechanic and double-take inducing graphics will keep you interested.
- TL;DR: A very pretty platformer that tries a bit too hard to evoke emotion
- Platform: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
- Hours Played: 6.5
- What I Played: All levels with about 25% of secrets found
Yarny is a little red doll made out of, you guessed it, yarn. Unravel tries to explain why it’s Yarny’s mission to run, jump, swing, and climb through the Swedish countryside in search of little red yarn tokens, but I frankly didn’t see it.
Honestly, the story and emotion of Unravel were all but lost on me. As Yarny moves through the 10 or so stages, he’ll see glowing images of past events, like children playing or a car crash. I’m not sure if these images and the photo album pictures unlocked after each level are speaking to a grander story, the lives of the developers, or some larger overarching commentary, but it didn’t quite hit home with me. I viewed Unravel more as a tech demo or showcase than anything else.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the game, though. Yarny is a unique character and a surprisingly emotive little guy. He’s always reacting to the goings on around him, whether that means stopping to watch a butterfly, shivering from the cold, or whipping his head around when something falls. He’ll put his shoulders up when it’s rainy and run with his head and arms flailing behind him when he’s scared. Yarny is just so damn cute.
You’ve probably played dozens of platformers before, but never one with a central mechanic like Unravel. As Yarny runs, a string of red yarn slowly unravels (get it?) behind him. He uses this yarn to Spider-Man swing across gaps, climbs ledges, and create bridges. You can even slingshot off of a short bridge to jump super high. The yarn does eventually run out, though. If you run too far without finding a spool to “reload”, Yarny will stop dead and become practically see-through which means it’s time to backtrack.
Unravel has a good mix of careful platforming and action sequences. There’s an Indiana Jones boulder scene with a beaver and a dangerous open field with swooping crows, just to name a few. For the most part, Unravel is straightforward in how to progress but there are a handful of difficult sections that will have you scratching your head. Everything is always there for a reason, though, so if there’s a section you can’t get through but you haven’t really made use of one of the yarn anchor points, you should probably rethink your strategy.
The physics in Unravel are very well done, for the most part. In my ~6.5 hours of playing, I had a few frustrating occasions of trying to move forward but being out of yarn. After undoing my knots and doing the exact same sequence of jumping and tying knots in the same order, I was able to progress. There is a lot of attention to detail, though, as the trail of yarn behind Yarny will flail in the wind and coil up as you backtrack.
Stunning is the first word that comes to mind when talking about Unravel. It’s a really, really good looking game. So, even if the grander message is lost on you like it was on me, you won’t be left wanting for a prettier picture as you guide Yarny through the Swedish landscape. The lighting is soft and shimmers beautifully off snow and water. Even up close while streaming to a Vita, the detail is superb. Each level has a completely different setting, whether it be a mountain side, a snowy field, or a boathouse.
This is one of my shorter posts but I’ve said all there is to say about Unravel. It’s a visually breathtaking platformer with a unique central mechanic. A larger, “love everyone” message is in there somewhere, but I didn’t quite get it. As such, Unravel was $20 spent for a few sessions of interesting play. Was it worth it? I’m leaning towards yes.