Take some time to smell the roses once in a while.
SPINNING ITS WAY INTO OUR HEARTS, ONE THREAD AT A TIME
Unravel is a charming, heart-warming side-scrolling platformer that squeezes its way into your heart without a single bit of dialogue from our adorable protagonist, Yarny. Made entirely of – you guessed it – yarn, Yarny takes us on an adventure through love and loss, peace and chaos.
Unravel is an uncharacteristic game from publisher Electronic Arts. It was developed by a small, Indie-like studio from Sweden named Coldwood Interactive. When it was announced at E3 2015, I was excited for a new kind of release from EA, one that is on the smaller side and is certainly not AAA. This shift to different genres with EA, along with a new CEO, says they are listening to gaming fans’ requests.
The story of Unravel is emotional. Featuring 12 levels, you travel across all forms of weather as you look back fondly on memories from an elderly woman’s mind. While the early levels show pleasant times from the family’s past home life and vacations, there is a certain peace that overtakes the game. You’ll blissfully run, jump, and swing across a handful of levels before things turn somber, as themes of industrialization take their toll on the family, both in their health and their natural surroundings. The game’s themes tell us that life is short and that we shouldn’t take things for granted, especially family. Unravel is a game unmatched in its tranquil nature and is best served in small doses.
The mechanics are quite simple and generally are consistent, with a hiccup every once in a while. Yarny can jump and utilize his own body’s worth of yarn to swing, pull objects, and create bridges, among other things. The enticing and unique aspect of controlling Yarny is his finite amount of yarn. You are only able to continue throughout a level for so long before needing to spool up with the addition of more wool. There are sometimes multiple ways to move past a challenge, but it is always required that you choose your path carefully, as you can run out of slack fairly quickly. I thought this was integrated beautifully.
Most of the time I felt that if I wasn’t passing a challenge, it was my fault. However, from time to time, I would end up dying and felt as if there was nothing I could do about it. Despite thinking I timed a jump perfectly, I would fall flat on my face and die. Perhaps I figured I had another second, but ended up drowning before I could pull myself out of the puddle. Puzzles get progressively more dangerous as the game goes on, much like the game Limbo. In fact, the games feel like polar opposites despite their similarly simple yet complex nature.
The game does a good job of setting you up for success but not holding your hand once it sees that you can swim on your own. There were numerous challenges that I failed repeatedly, yet the game doesn’t give you a hint or highlight a suggested path or method. While it can be frustrating at times, the game gives you a sense of accomplishment when you finally get past a certain point. Towards the end of the game, I became such a pro at handling Yarny and all his obstacles that I was generally able to meet each challenge head-on.
THE BEST LOOKING YARN EVER
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that visuals are a key aspect of any game to me. Unravel certainly uses EA’s development budget and takes advantage of every penny. It is simply unreal how real the game’s environments appear. The detail in Yarny’s threads, the splash of water, or the simple sunny greens of a backyard are just a few of the game’s visual feasts for the senses.
The appearance of the game is something that Coldwood could have totally mailed in, but the extra attention to every single detail made me appreciate the game more than I ever thought I would.
A GRAND SCORE
In addition to the game’s general beauty, the story would not be complete without its rich, deep score. Composed by Frida Johansson and Henrik Oja, the string heavy composition feels reminiscent of something you’d hear in a Tolkien tale such as The Lord of the Rings. It matches the emotional feel of the visuals and is up to the challenge. The depth felt in this game is not quite something I can completely convey, so my best recommendation is to give the game a shot and see/feel for yourself.
Unravel is a charming stroll through life’s ups-and-downs. Through every sight and sound in Yarny’s journey, Unravel is one of 2016’s biggest surprises.
+ Solid platforming mechanics.
+ The visuals seen in Unravel are unparalleled in non-AAA games. In fact, certain AAA games have nothing on Unravel.
+ One of the best soundtracks in gaming. A beautiful, touching score.
+ Challenging puzzles.
– Occasional inconsistencies in controls provides frustration.
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s founder. Join The Geekiverse Club on Xbox Live and game with him via josiahislegend.
Unravel was reviewed on an Xbox One. It is also available for PS4 and PC. All in-game pictures taken using the Xbox One’s screenshot functionality.
What is a hindsight review? It’s an article in which a Geekiverse writer reviews a game that they have never played before and is outside its launch window. It offers a fresh perspective and shows which games in your backlog are worth playing through.
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