Unravel: a yarn with a difference
I come from a generation of gamers that played rather a lot of platform games back in the day. Mainly because back in the day most games were platform games. That why, these days, I generally avoid them like the plague. There are, of course, exceptions.
Unravel is one of those exceptions.
For a publisher known for polished sports sims and brash AAA action-fests, Unravel seems very out of place in EA Games' stable.
The brainchild of Martin Sahlin, creative director of Swedish developer Coldwood Interactive, Unravel follows the adventures of Yarny- a delightful-looking red doll made from a single thread of red yarn. Yarny must navigate his way through a series of chapters using nothing but the yarn that makes up his body to overcome obstacles.
At under 20cm high, our world is huge to the tiny Yarny. Objects and situations involving everyday objects make up the challenges that Yarny must face. And, being made of absorbent thread, Yarny needs to stay away from water.
Yarny's abilities are limited, but effective. He can throw the end of his yarn like a grapple and snag it on hooks. He can tie yarn between two point and create a bouncy sling, he can abseil down long drops and he can swing between points, as well as push and pull useful objects. For such a simple game mechanic, Yarny is quite versatile.
With all the swinging, climbing and bouncing using the yarn that makes up Yarny's body, it's not long before the poor little bugger looks a bit threadbare. Run out of yarn and Yarny can't proceed. The game levels have extra rolls of yarn that are usually easy to get to, but some require a bit of thought. Gathering up new yarn enables Yarny to proceed, unimpeded, to the next puzzle.
The levels are entered via photos, presumable the memories of the old lady that lives in the house that serves as the hub to Yarny's adventures. Later on even negotiating the various shelves and fixtures to get to the photos becomes a challenge in itself.
Whilst the puzzles are cleverly conceived, none of them are too taxing. I think this is mainly due to good level design than the game being too easy. The clean levels are never ambiguous leaving little chance of the player becoming frustrated due to misunderstanding what to do next.
The balanced difficulty allowed me to really enjoy my time with this beautiful game, rather than have it become an exercise in frustration. Saying that, seasoned masochistic platform players looking for a nosebleed-inducing challenge may find the adventures of Yarny a little pedestrian, but it's charm should be enough to win you over.
Visually the game is astounding, with gorgeous-looking environments that look real enough to touch. Of course, for the game to work -- a tiny yarn doll negotiating the real world -- the graphics need to look realistic. And for the most part they look 100% photo-real, inviting players to aid Yarny as he navigates the mundane items that we see every day from the left of the screen to the right.
As platformers go, Unravel is a member of a new generation that seeks to impart a profound experience on the player rather than a clichéd plot that we've played though time and time again. Maybe a little too easy, this is offset by the game being absolutely delightful and introducing an endearing new character in Yarny that I hope that we will see again.