Developed by Swedish company Coldwood Interactive, Unravel follows an adorably sentient yarn creature “Yarny” as he travels the wide beautiful terrifying world. Yarny traverses twelve different environments that vary from a bright and sunny beach, to a dark and vile toxic waste dump and everything in between. Along the way you can find cleverly hidden secret patches though your main goal is to obtain the distinct yarn badges at the end of each level.
Each environment represents an important memory from a small European family though what each one actually means is mostly up to interpretation. Some have very clear meanings (there are few reasons to dress up nicely and visit a cemetery that don’t involve something sad) while others are as simple as a family trip to the beach. Though still others deal with environmental issues and a particularly striking moment involving a train. Though interesting to think about, the ambiguity of the memories can make it difficult to really care about the main “story” as it is. Fortunately we have Yarny to keep us company.
Whether he’s shivering in the cold, jauntily raising his arms as he runs through the field, or batting at mosquitos, everything Yarny does seems designed to make him as loveable as possible. This is vital since it helps immensely with getting through the actual game. For the most part the game is excellently designed.The puzzles use yarn physics and require you to use your own body to swing to higher places like Spider-man, pull things down and move them around, tie one thing to another thing and more. This all works great and intuitively, except when it doesn’t.
Despite the short length of most of the levels (roughly 20 minutes) that time can increase exponentially from certain puzzles that have poorly defined solutions, solutions that seem to only work half of the time, or solutions that require you to realize that the almost invisible object is something you can interact with. There’s a puzzle in the third level that involves raising the water level to get across a gap that almost made me want to stop playing the game with how long it took to solve and how needlessly difficult it was to actually do.
There’s also a bit too many tedious puzzles that require you to move a small platform to get up to a slightly higher place. The worst one was a small dark can that is almost invisible to most human beings so of course you ignore it. That way by the time you take the ten seconds to get on the other side of the screen you’re met with an insurmountable wall costing you twenty seconds as you go back to find the can and then drag it back to use it. That’s not a puzzle, that’s just busy work.
But again, when the puzzles work they work fantastically. And it’s made easier by the fact that every level looks gorgeous (the water looks more realistic than actual water) and usually involves a segment where you get on some sort of vehicle to move at high speeds as whimsical music soars in the background. At some points it almost seems like the game is trying to hard at being whimsical, but it’s hard to criticize something for having music and graphics that are too good.
Despite little replay value, some infuriating tedious puzzles and some ambiguous storytelling, Unravel is still a solid platformer worth playing. The fact that you’re playing one of the most endearing protagonists in years certainly helps. But what really cements it is the great yarn physics, solid puzzles, gorgeous graphics and beautiful musical score that almost oozes whimsy. And at only twenty bucks with roughly four to six hours of game time it’s an excellent value for those who have that side scrolling platformer itch.