I must admit that from the moment the Unravel’s press conference started on EA’s stage at E3 and Creative Director for Unravel, Martin Sahlin came onstage I was already invested in this little indie title. While, not vastly different in terms of most puzzle-platform games, I was still curious with what Unravel had to offer just based off the cute character of Yarny and the interesting mechanic of always being bound to your string of yarn as you make your way through the game.
With no dialogue coming from our main character, Yarny, Coldwood Interactive was still able to manage and convey plenty of emotions with his body language and his little quirks he presents to you the player.
The story of Unravel is one that might just pull at your yarn strings as you work your way through each level slowly adding to the unfinished photo album you’re introduced to at the beginning. As descriptions and photos are added, it will start to give you some insight at a family’s memories and “unravel” their story.
You won’t end up seeing these people that are in the photo album though, although you’ll encounter a few different types of animals from gophers, birds and even a moose along your journey with Yarny across the Swedish countryside.
At the core of Unravel it is a pretty straight-forward puzzle platformer in the mechanical sense. As expected you’ll transverse different obstacles, jump over ledges, pools of water all the while the layered mechanic that’s been put in the game limiting your travel options at times leaving you to think about your actions and the next move to make.
You’re eased into the concept as first, you start off with simple tasks of swinging from certain places in branches or making bridges with your own yarn. While later levels will start introducing more complex, but not frustratingly difficult, puzzles that will include pulleys and multiple objects you’ll need to manipulate to progress forward.
The interesting part that comes into play is the fact that you’re attached to the string of yarn coming from Yarny, and at some point you’ll start to run out. That’s when you need to find a checkpoint to “refill” yourself with more yarn. You’ll also be affected by this in terms of you can’t just make attachment points everywhere, as that will use up your yarn. Thinking ahead of time and planning out your move choices will help avoid this scenario.
That does lead to a slight negative as you reach the end of the game. With backtracking like that to free up more yarn it can become a little tedious, but with only an eight hour story it doesn’t overstay its welcome for me. You’ll reach a few points during the game where it can become frustrating from multiple deaths as you try to figure out where you need to go next. Unravel will make you solve the puzzles yourself without giving you any type of help or hints, so you’re all on your own for this one.
One of the highest points for Unravel has to be the graphics and sound design. I was in awe of how good the over graphics and textures throughout the game looked. This is probably one of the best looking games on the current generation of consoles, right up there with the big hitters like Witcher. The game is so photorealistic it’s insane, and Yarny looks ever so adorable in any situation he encounters. You’ll go from bright sunny landscapes with grass and flowers to dark caves and even snowy trees, the variety is very well done.
The music and sound design also blew me away. The score is top-notch with a classical feel to it from all the violins used and Coldwood knew exactly when to change tones for more intense moments or the more heart-warming ones. Sound effects were great, from hearing Yarny’s footsteps on the ground rustling the dirt and leaves and different environments, to just any object you interacted with and made a sound.
While it is still very early in the year right now, Unravel seems like it easily secured a spot in my top games for 2016, maybe even favorite game of the year. From the clever and thought provoking puzzles to the gorgeous graphics and sound design you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not give this game a shot from Swedish newcomer Coldwood Interactive. This wonderful eight hour journey is one that I thoroughly enjoyed and would gladly play again!
- Gorgeous, photo-realistic graphics
- Wonderful score that knows how to set the tone
- Moderately difficult puzzles and scenarios
- Yarny is the cutest main character ever
- Backtracking for your yarn can become tedious