Review By Daniel Lein
When I saw Unravel at the last E3 I was less than impressed. I couldn’t care less about another quirky puzzle platformer from some vague indie dev team. However when I finally got my hands on it, Unravel turned out to be something much more.
Unravel is a 2.5D puzzle platformer where you take control of Yarny, a small creature appropriately made of yarn, as you attempt to collect the memories of an average family. The story is breathtaking in both its delivery and its message. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it gives endearing commentary about life and love. It points out several moments of significance, but rather than focus intently on each of these, it collects them and delivers a much simpler message. As for its delivery Unravel does an excellent job of putting you in the shoes of Yarny. Though there are hardly any lines of dialogue and no real indication of what your mission is, before long you fully understand you are meant to collect preserve these moments. It’s more of an observational tale than an actual quest, yet you will certainly feel compelled to carry it out. The only issue with the story is the slight lack of context for the first few levels. It’s not a huge problem but the beginning is definitely confusing.
The gameplay for Unravel is almost flawless. There’s a lot of ingredients that go into it, but what makes it excellent is that all of Yarny’s abilities are available to you at the start of the game. This allowed the game developers to tinker and experiment with the various components. These components consist of your basic running and jumping, but more importantly the use of Yarny’s yarn tail as a whip/rope. You can use this tail to swing from ledge to ledge, tie objects together, or grab objects. There is also the prevailing difficulty of Yarny being only one long piece of yarn. All of these integral parts and pieces combine with tight controls and fluid animations to give an excellent feeling of momentum, all of that before even talking about the puzzles. The puzzles are creative and varied, but more importantly they are challenging without being impossible. If you think long enough and look at the problem from every angle you can get through the puzzle. A nice addition to the puzzle complex is the limited amount of yarn you can use to solve the puzzle. All of this suffice to say that the gameplay is fun and challenging from beginning to end. There are a small handful of puzzles however that almost require you to die to fully understand the correct course of action, but with frequent and generous check points, this isn’t a major issue.
Usually I begin reviews with the presentation, but this time I’ve saved the best for last. Unravel has some of the most beautiful graphics I have seen this generation. It masterfully plays with near photo realism and a fairy-tale like charm. Every single level looks unique and genuinely breathtaking. This is thanks in part to the level design itself. Yarny is a small character about the size of a toy, so naturally every level plays with his perspective. Some parts of levels focus in on the character in a similar way that the film “Toy Story” does, making every day objects the size of houses, and making things we would consider tiny into useful tools. Both of these effects go a long way to putting the player in a special place and a special mind during gameplay. The music is also stunning. String instruments with vocalists combine to deliver a dozen tracks, each with its own sound and feel, and each of them amazing. The music of Unravel is integral to the story-telling of the game as well, considering that the mood the music sets changes the way the player looks at the various memories they collect. Unravel has a tremendous presentation, perhaps even the best of this generation thus far.
Unravel was an amazing experience. It deliveries a heartwarming tale through a few hours of delightfully challenging gameplay and beautiful level design. Combine that with the breathtaking music and you have one of the better games of this generation
Unravel Earns a 8.5/10