Game Review: Unravel (Xbox One)

One of the most memorable moments of EA’s press conference at E3 2015 wasn’t the presentation of games like FIFA, Mass Effect or Battlefront. Instead, it was a man standing on stage with a small knitted character. His hands shaking nervously as he talked about a project that he was clearly very passionate about. He introduced the world to “Yarny”. An apple sized figure that you would play as in the game “Unravel”. A personal quest of his to create something beautiful and meaningful. This was so heart-warming and relatable to witness it led many to claim he had “won E3” that year. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to playing the game so here’s my thoughts on it.

At its core, Unravel is a puzzle-platformer. The game centres on Yarny, a small anthropomorphic creature made of yarn. The player navigates it through the environment, utilizing the unraveling yarn. This makes up Yarny helping to solve puzzles, avoid dangerous creatures, and traverse obstacles.

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During the game’s introduction, an old woman is seen looking out her window, before she adjusts a picture of a baby and picks up a ball of yarn. As she proceeds upstairs, a lone ball of yarn rolls out of shot. Yarny, an anthropomorphic creature made of red yarn, and the game’s protagonist, then walks into shot, and is visibly staring around in wonder of his environment.

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Through various picture frames in the house, Yarny can visit environments that were significant in the house owners’ lives, and discover their memories about the places; the initial memories are happy, such as visiting the sea shore, or hiking in the mountains, but eventually darker memories are revealed: the rural forest area is industrialized, which in turn causes accidents with toxic waste, and people start moving to the city. A memory also reveals that the old woman’s husband died from a heart attack.

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At the end of each level, Yarny finds a red yarn badge it collects on the cover of a photo album in the house, which then fills with photos of the memories encountered along the way.

The best way I can describe Unravel when attempting to separate it from other platformers is to say that it has a lot of heart. If watching the creator of the game talk about it onstage at E3 wasn’t enough to convince you of the passion he had about making it then simply playing it will do just that, I assure you.

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I don’t have too many complaints when it comes to controlling Yarny. Still, things can get a little bit sloppy during certain platforming sections. Regardless, lassoing the long strings of yarn to pull objects or swing from branches works wonderfully.

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There’s a certain level of trial and error within the game, some deaths can feel a little bit cheap. The puzzles are not particularly challenging. Yet, they require enough thought to be satisfying. It’s one of those things where you think the puzzles are more complicated than they actually are. You shouldn’t get too frustrated. If you’re not looking for the off the beaten path collectibles then you likely won’t struggle much.

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Unravel tells a sincere, heart-warming story with a voiceless protagonist. It’s all about the strands of life and the struggles that can come with it. The scattered memories within the game and the photo album are truly beautiful to look at. It provokes thought in a way that very few games manage to accomplish.

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I really enjoyed the games usage of real world objects in certain platforming sections even if the controls can be slightly cumbersome.

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Unravel tells a thoughtful story but it’s also stunning visually. Not only that but I really enjoyed the original soundtrack that was created for the game, it really added to the special atmosphere the game has.

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Unravel is worth experiencing for the fact that it is almost guaranteed to pull on your heart strings. Not only with its story but the beautiful background visuals and music. Sadly, it’s slightly lacking in the actual gameplay department which could damage the experience for some. Its not that it’s bad or anything but it’s just ok, a shame. Still, while it is a short experience I have to highly recommend it.

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