Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Coldwood Interactive
Unravel and its cute protagonist (Yarny) was first revealed to the surprise of everyone at E3 2015. On top of the surprise announcement of the brand new IP was that Electronic Arts was publishing the title. Electronic Arts in recent years (in my opinion) have been trying to clean up their image and reduce some of the video game fanboy hate. So publishing this indie/artsy style game is a step in that direction I believe. Now, less than a year from it’s surprise appearance at E3, Unravel is making its debut. This day and age of delays and long productions it’s rare to see a reveal and release so closely, and I have to say it’s quite refreshing.
For those that haven't seen anything on Unravel, it is a puzzle platformer that uses yarn and physics to solve puzzles and traverse the environment. Yarn you say? Yes the main character, Yarny, is surprise surprise, made out of yarn. Yarny can use his body as a tool to make it through the stages of Unravel. Everything from using yarn to swing across points, tether yarn to areas to use it as a springboard or bridge, and even to climb or repel from areas. Making your way through each of the twelve chapters (which felt a little long for my taste) will take all of these skills and then some. Not only will you need to figure out how to get Yarny across the stage using his abilities, but since he is made out of yarn, he only has a limited amount to use. Yarny leaves a trail of yarn behind as he moves through the stages. Spools of yarn are utilized to refill your yarn inventory and also act as checkpoints.
Yarn limitations aren’t the only problems Yarny will encounter. Animals, such as crabs, pose as a threat to Yarny completing some stages. So not only are you tasked with figuring out how to get passed obstacles scattered through the world, but also how to avoid enemies or even sometimes how to use enemies to your advantage. For the most part my good experiences figuring out Unravel’s puzzles outweighed the bad. Just like any good puzzle game, everything shouldn’t come easy and there should be a feeling of accomplishment when conquering areas. Happily this is the case throughout most of Unravel. However I did find myself pushing through the later portion of the game, feeling that the developers could have cut out a few chapters to make Unravel a tighter experience.
The story of the game is told through Yarny reliving moments in a family's history (real people, not other yarn characters) through pictures and seeing memories of the family appearing and disappearing throughout the stages of the game. Without spoiling anything I will say that the storytelling is very unique and beautiful, while also a bit depressing. All of the in game visuals are ultra realistic and for a good amount of the game I just enjoyed looking at the scenery and how Yarny can influence the environment. It’s also worth mentioning that the new environments introduced for each stage help alleviate some of the repetition I felt with solving some of the games puzzles. Needless to say, Unravel is one of the best looking downloadable titles I’ve played on the Xbox One.
I’m really happy Electronic Arts decided to publish Unravel and introduce everyone to its original hero and beautiful environments. The puzzles can be increasingly challenging and some of Yarny’s in game physics are at times hit and miss, but it doesn’t take away from the overall experience. If the underutilized genre of puzzle platformer is your thing (and you're ok with dealing with a decent amount of frustration), Unravel will challenge and wow you visually throughout. If you can stick it out through the game's twelve chapters, you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment and just might want a Yarny for your own family.