When EA unveiled Unravel to the world last year during E3 I wasn’t exactly enthralled with the idea of yet another side scrolling platformer featuring a main character made out of cloth. To be honest, I always kind of pegged that as Sony’s thing and comparisons between Unravel and Little Big Planet are almost inevitable (creation tools aside) given the similarities between the two titles. This past weekend I sat down with the final build of Unravel and played through the first two of the game’s stages. After experiencing part of Yarny’s adventures, I can see what makes this game so unique from its peers.
Mechanically Unravel can easily be described as a physics-based side-scrolling puzzle game but that kind of distilled description does absolutely nothing to convey the sense of wonder, joy and happiness that will swell up inside of you when the music, art direction, and main character all work in harmony.
Unravel stars the charming Yarny who is a small doll made out of red yarn probably no bigger than the size of your hand. As players traverse the environments the doll slowly leaves behind a single thread of red yarn that trails behind. Managing your amount of yarn is absolutely pivotal to succeeding in the two stages that I got the chance to play. As the material that comprises Yarny begins to literally unravel Yarny’s appearance becomes thinner and thinner until you can no longer travel any further. Thankfully players do have at least trick up their sleeve to help manage the output of yarn – by pressing the left skin our little red friend will pull taught on the yarn tail until there is no more slack, increasing the amount of space you can move.
Because Yarny is so small the world’s sense of scale a more of a micro scale when compared to other platformers. Things like chairs, seesaws, cupboards and gates are quite the obstacle for our little yarn friend to overcome. This is a game all about environmental puzzles – the game will set you up with all of the tools that you’ll need but it is up to you to put all the pieces together. Yarny might just be heavy enough to tip an empty seesaw when standing on it but the little doll will have to find an apple or another object to weigh down the playset. There is no way to throw items or really attack enemies, instead, gameplay focuses on finding clever ways to your environment while avoiding enemies or tricking them with distractions.
Upon first glance Unravel is a charming game with unique yarn based mechanics like limiting player movement, adding more yarn to our hero with checkpoints and the ability for players to lasso themselves from tree branch to tree branch. Not wanting to spoil what little the initial levels teased me with in terms of story it feels like Unravel is going to spin a narrative that will tug at the heart strings. The developers at ColdWood have taken the time to craft the world that feels interesting, unique and also warm – like visiting an old friend’s house after being away for a long time. After playing the first few levels, you’ll surely be wanting to return to his beautifully colorful world to find all of the secrets that Unravel’s world has to find.