If Little Big Planet was remade with an emphasis on story and tackled very personal issues related to our finite existence, we would likely have something similar to Unravel. Don’t let that description fool you into thinking that it’s some thoroughly depressing thought piece that never lets up on the sentimental subjects. When it goes that direction, however, it does so in a way that doesn’t beat you over the head with it and leaves you to make your own personal interpretation.
Intro and Gameplay:
I was absolutely stunned by the realization that as Yarny you would be seeing the world from the view of a tiny little red yarn figure standing a few inches high. Yarny is on a mission to collect remnants from a long lost family’s memories, and this perspective presents a huge variety of obstacles. You'll face the likes of rising water tides to hamsters that seem pretty pissed about someone being in their turf. The mechanics of utilizing yarn in order to swing, rappel, and build springboard platforms makes for tons of brain teasers that will keep fans of puzzle-based gameplay happy. There were a few obstacles here and there that I had trouble with, but once I discovered what I was doing wrong, it was obvious that I was over thinking it.
Graphics and Sound:
The colors are vibrant, the layout of the terrain is brilliantly planned, and the fine details of the textures on all the various objects of the levels do a wonderful job of establishing this convincing, living world outside of his home. There is no dialogue in the game minus the handwritten messages in a family photo album which is used as a hub for the items you collect. As you progress, more family photos are revealed in the book. This works as a very creative and powerful way of telling the game’s story. The soundtrack is exceptionally well done. It is composed in a minimalist kind of approach. No big epic sweeping orchestral work here, just a more up close and personal recording and arrangement that meshes perfectly with the story. The sound design seems to be taken directly from field recordings, adding another step in how realistic the world looks and feels.
Fun and Value:
Unravel will challenge the way you think about navigating a side scrolling platformer. Knowing you do not have an infinite supply of yarn at your disposal, and that you must strategize how to use what you have left, will keep you engaged in the puzzle element of the gameplay. Some are a piece of cake, some will really trip you up. The story aspect of the game is powerful, and not to be missed for anyone who likes something to think about without having it all laid out on the table. A notable issue that I see in a lot of platformers are that nailing a jump or a swing can require a bit of luck in the way of timing but there was never a situation damning enough to say “I’m done!” and move on to another game.
There is a heartfelt message at the beginning from developer ColdWood Interactive that holds true in what you get in your experience playing Unravel. It’s not for fans of explosive action, but if you want something that will challenge your mind as well as your heart, this game is for you. It tells a powerful story that hits close to home, not only because of the nature of its importance, but by how masterfully the entire package meshes together as a challenging and interactive audiovisual treat.