Game review on Playstation 4
David Hull / Sun 21st Feb 2016
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OVERVIEW Unravel is a downloadable side-scrolling puzzle platforming game that follows Yarny, a small coil of yarn.
An elderly woman enjoying some photos of the past wanders upstairs, allowing Yarny to take to the stage. Yarny, a small, figurine-sized spindle of twine goes out in search of memories to place in his scrapbook. With each level, selected by climbing the inside of the house and diving into photo frames, we are given tiny insights into a life journey and the loss that comes with time.
Initially the story is very vague as it's hard to know where you're headed and why. Yarny collects ghostly images that appear and fade in the background, with each level ending as you acquire a small woollen button. It isn't until much later that things start to make sense and, whilst both heartwarming and sad, it could easily be forgotten.
Being formed of yarn, you are always connected to the beginning of the level. Progression either in a straight line or coiling yourself around a tree branch will cause you to expend your supply of yarn and ultimately be left yarnless. Along the way you will encounter spools of yarn that you can resupply with, also acting as checkpoints. Unless you make a severe error in judgment, you'll never really run out of yarn, but if you do it's easy to backtrack and right the mistake. In fact, with all the yarn flying around to solve puzzles and interact with the world, it works really well.
Yarny himself is a bit clumsy to handle and in a game that requires fine manipulation, it's often annoying at how inaccurate he can be. His movements can be sluggish when you need to be quick and many a death will occur due to things that could really have been avoided in one attempt. In fact, dying in Unravel seems to be expected regularly. Many puzzles seem to require you to die in order to learn. We all know the series where this can be effective, but here? Not so much.
Instead of going for a fantasy environment Unravel focuses on the real and draws inspiration from Ume?, Sweden. Visually gorgeous, the game would do a fair job of convincing you to move to the top end of the planet.
Yarny is adorable and fits right in with the setting. He isn't particularly expressive as much time is spent with the camera away from him, he also doesn't utter a word. However he will show fear, compassion, shock and appear deep in thought which allow him to truly become a character in the story naturally.
Each level has it's own base theme with variations that occur based on scenery changes or by killer hamsters. It's peaceful and soothing, fitting in with the game perfectly.
The sound of birds and bugs, your Yarn feet shuffling along through fallen leaves or fresh snow really helps the immersion. It's easy to get absorbed through the audio alone.
VERDICT Coldwood Interactive have produced a beautiful game. There are design flaws and the story doesn't really roll out as effectively as it could, but it's still worth your time. Maybe one day we will meet Yarny again and enjoy a cleaner, more rewarding experience together.
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