Another game that made me cry.
Unravel seemed kinda unimpressive to me at first. I didn’t think it’d be bad, just that it wouldn’t be all that great either. Another game that attempted to capitalize on the indie boom.
Now I wish that more games were like it.
The night before I finished Unravel, I had completed the second to last level of the game. I went upstairs to get ready for bed, and went into the room to tell Jennifer what I thought about it. Simply explaining the game’s premise to her made me a little misty-eyed.
I knew then that I should write this review.
As a side note, Jennifer decided to leave little bits in my review template before I wrote this. So I left them in.
Jen: You’re a piece of red yarn that unravels, hence the name: Unravel (duh).
Like LittleBigPlanet, Unravel‘s gameplay revolves around traversing each level while collecting items. Thankfully, Unravel doesn’t have nearly the same amount of collectibles to worry about along the way. Instead, the joy is found in admiring the wonderfully crafted environments while attempting to complete each brief puzzle segment.
For the most part, each puzzle is simple, yet fulfilling to finish. There were a couple parts where I felt stuck because I didn’t know the solution immediately, but the vast majority were easy enough to figure out on the fly.
There were a couple situations that were infuriatingly difficult. Not because the puzzle was difficult to figure out, but rather because the solution was difficult to execute. Thankfully, those situations were at a minimum, or I’d have likely thrown my controller through the TV.
Most sections are rewarding enough however. I felt a sense of accomplishment when recognizing what I needed to do. Carrying out the plan took up the other half, leaving me wonderfully satisfied.
Upon completion of each individual level, you’re transferred back to the cottage that you begin in, where you search for photographs. Those photographs serves as the portals to each area, and can be played in almost any order you choose. The five collectibles per level are also saved as you grab them up, which simplifies things for you quite a bit.
Jen: Again, you’re a piece of yarn that is a tiny wee creature.
Unravel is charming, both in design and sound. The color palettes for each level does a fantastic job of conveying the feel of each area. The snowy levels have a distinct blue filter over them, with Yarny (the main character) shivering in the cold for some reason. The quaint cottage itself has a warm tone over it, creating an air of comfort; it feels like home. Yarny’s fuzzy textures make it look like… Well, yarn. It’s a little confusing why the developers felt it was necessary to make Yarny blink though.
The music itself is incredibly calming, which is good since I had also been playing Mirror’s Edge (getting thrown off of buildings can be frustrating). Each time I sat down to play Unravel, I found myself relaxing.
Except for that one puzzle. Nothing could relax me there…
I digress. The combination of standard, as well as traditional Swedish instruments makes for a soothing tone to the entire game. It sounds lovely, all the time, somehow.
The team in charge of the soundtrack deserves to be recognized for doing what many other games fail to do, so I’m going to plug their credits into this review.
Jen: No one else makes yarn games, so I guess that makes it unique.
Sure, there are plenty of great platforming games out on the market right now. I even mentioned LittleBigPlanet, another game that I adore. Sackboy/girl are freaking adorable, but Yarny is damn cute as well. Yarny’s cat-like ears and fuzzy texture make it look like something I’ve held in my hands before.
Yarny is a soft, crocheted doll that explores each area by swinging a lasso of yarn around, climbing, pulling, pushing, and spelunking its way through to find the next missing piece of its creator’s photo album. Interestingly, instead of being free to explore without consequence, the yarn that fabricates Yarny is also its lifeline. If you get things too tangled up, you’ll likely find yourself unable to get very far.
Part of the puzzle elements of each level consists of thinking strategically. You need to consider how much yarn you’re trailing behind you, backtracking to untangle Yarny before moving on. This mechanic is never an annoyance, at least as far as I’m concerned. It added a depth to my way of mentally tackling each section.
Jen: Straight forward… You unravel.
The underlying story of Unravel follows Yarny’s attempts to collect tiny yarn creations. The elderly woman that resides in the cottage Yarny comes to life in spends its time delving into the woman’s memories, piecing together the album’s contents.
The majority of the story is nonverbal, and with each completed section, you’re given a small excerpt that the woman his written. You’re essentially looking through her photo album, from her childhood to old age.
As you travel through each level though, you can find stationary images that give you an idea of what memories are tied to that location.
The implications of the story is what affected me so much. The elderly woman’s life playing out in little snapshots, while paired with the excellent music, made for a remarkably moving experience.
WILDCARD: MORE GAMES LIKE UNRAVEL, PLEASE
Jen: Surprise! You unravel while playing.
These smaller experiences need to be explored more often. Games like this deserve to be more common. While the indie scene has been keen to explore the introspective, deeper themes in storytelling, the mainstream gaming industry hasn’t done much to breach the wall into games that attempt to evoke meaningful feeling in the player.
We need more games like Unravel, Journey, Valiant Hearts (another game I need to review), and This War Of Mine.
Jen: I don’t know. Unraveling?
Unravel is a wonderful, beautiful, and memorable game to experience. It isn’t perfect, but the feeling it left me with made me feel something that I rarely feel when playing games these days. The fact that it could tug at my heartstrings while keeping exposition out of the story and limiting the written word is impressive.
I’m left with the feeling that Unravel is a greatly underrated and underappreciated title. So if you’re in the market for something to play, take a look at Unravel.
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What beautiful symbolism, as well: stitching together someone’s memories. It’s almost like the old woman has dementia, and its through her yarn creations that her world makes sense and her past is, for a moment, “stitched” to her present again. Excellent review! I’ve only watched some gameplay online, but I agree that more sensitive games like this should definitely be developed.
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What a game about yarn?…..and you didn’t tell me!?
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I’ve played some of this with my 3 year old. She likes to run along and climb on things, I deal with the puzzles. It’s been nice to play together, although the crabs did scare her a bit!
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I love the aesthetic of Unravel but there is something about the gameplay that just rubs at me the wrong way. Because of that I’ve only done three of the levels. When I am in between games, I have it there to go back to, but other small platformers generally pull me away (Little Nightmares seems really cool) that I’ve been toying with it for about a year now.
Good news for you though, Unravel 2 is in development.
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Another for the backlog. I’m a sucker for symbolic objects. I cried my eyes out in Castaway with the one Wilson scene.
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My partner loves watching me play this game – it’s so atmospheric and the idea of being the thread that ties together all those lost memories… sniff something in my eye… best $5 CAN I ever spent (got it on a sale!)
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