Game Review: Unravel

Release date: 2016
Version played: Xbox One in 2020

Originally announced in a now infamous E3 presentation, Unravel is a 2016 platformer developed by Coldwood, and published by Electronic Arts. Players control Yarny, a small, red creature made entirely of yarn, as he journeys through various locations accessed through photographs in a family home. Yarny must constantly top up his length of yarn, however, as he can unravel, halting progress. Yarny has the ability to throw his yarn to grapple to far away points, and can tie knots around these points to anchor himself for a steep descent or to swing to an out-of-jumping-range platform.

+ the locations are gorgeous and Yarny is adorable. Like seemingly so many side-scrolling platformers these days, this is a story of a small creature in a large world (for once, our world) but it uses that to its advantage. Tiny stones from a human walking up a rocky path are dangerous hazards for Yarny, as is a simple pothole filled with rainwater after a storm
+ overall, the level designs themselves are great, such as reminiscing on a family hike, or the way a loved one spent their time in the garage – but obviously doing these things as a two inch tall yarn creature. Having to drag a soda can through the level to use it as a stepping stone later is the best kind of challenge, as is using Yarny’s (not endless) supply of himself to swing as a pendulum to collect some easy-to-spot, hard-to-grab secrets
+ the idea of each level being accessed through a photograph, and therefore including the memories of the photograph’s surroundings, is interesting. The story itself is a bit pretentious, but there is enough wiggle room to take the overall, underlying meaning as whatever you believe it to be

unravel_2
If this game had a dedicated picture mode, you can bet my hard drives would be full of shots of all the gorgeous scenery.

– much of the game itself is decidedly flat for a platformer, with the majority of some levels simply ‘holding right’, to move across. These are arguably the ‘story points’, where the game doesn’t want you distracted, but they often slowed the pacing too much for my liking
– a few gimmicks don’t seem like they were intended to be used more than once or twice, such as Yarny ‘running out’, so to speak, before finishing a puzzle. The few times this happened to me were easily solved, but I would have liked to have to think about my in game actions more

> I bought this for someone else to play when it was released, promising I’d get around to it eventually, and I’ve only gone to it now because of the fact I played Little Nightmares and that was pretty good.

Should you play this game: I didn’t have huge hopes for this game (evident by the fact it’s been in my backlog all this time) but it was fine. Yarny is adorable and the environments are gorgeous, but as a video game it just didn’t do much for me. When I finished it, I had no desire to collect missed secrets or go achievement hunting, and I can’t say I’ll ever play it again. I probably wouldn’t bother with it.

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