There are moments in Unravel that make me fall in love with the game all over again. The small details in the game are beautiful and have a level of craftsmanship that blows my mind that the game was made by a team of just 14 people. Whether it is holding onto a lantern to not be blown away by harsh winter winds, cracking the thin layer of ice below Yarny’s little woolly legs, or saving a helpless bird who is caught in a trap, Unravel is a tremendous achievement, even if a few elements don’t quite hit home.
Back at the EA conference during E3 2015, Creative Director for Coldwood Interactive, Martin Sahlin took the stage. Here was a man terrified to talk in front of the crowd. Yarny in hard, he talked about how he came up with the idea of the game on a camping trip, how he made a little Yarny doll and took pictures of our little red friend traversing the wilderness around him. It’s a touching story that makes its way into the game as he explains:
“It was born out of the need to make something more personal, something with a heart. It’s a puzzle platformer which you play as a little character made out of yarn which unravels as you move. The yarn represent love and the bonds that we make, and it unravels because that’s what happens when we are separated from what we love.”
One of the first things you’ll notice with Unravel is just how amazing the game looks. Every detail down to the texture of the dirt or the way a wire fence bends how it should, or the clumps of snow that fall from a weak branch, this game is beautiful. Yarny himself is the most convincing fabric based character ever made in a media form. Despite being a very simple design, Yarny has a depth to the emotions he conveys to us and does it in a way that makes us truly care about him. When he shivers from the cold as he trudges through the snow, you feel that cold on your skin, you share in his struggle. His environments tower over him, making him feel that much smaller and in turn his journey that much bigger.
You’ll tackle each of the 12 levels from approaching a framed photo in the home of an elderly woman. These photo’s are memories of herself and her grandchildren. You’ll experience each memory as you attempt to track down a little yarn piece to finish the photo album on her table. As you make your way through the stunning visuals and physics based puzzles, you’ll stumble upon memories that light up like fireflies to form an image of that moment in time. Yarny will collect that memory and place it in the album once you return to the woman’s home. There is no spoken dialogue in the game and therefore the experiences in the game must tell this emotional story and it does so with a form of elegance not normally found in a EA published title.
Yarny has a few abilities that you will use on your adventure to progress through the games many puzzles. You can throw out threads of yarn to swing from place to place and create small solid threads to bounce on or to use as a platform for dragging rocks, tin cans or other items you’ll discover. Yarny will run out of usable yarn after his supply runs out, leaving him frail and empty, so finding more is essential. Sometimes you will need to back track or figure out a way to use less of his yarn to solve the puzzle. While not all the puzzles are particularly difficult, they do have a great sense of creativity to them. The levels dealing with gears and conveyor belts turn a fun puzzle solving game into a death trap of trial and error. These sections are poorly designed and left a bad taste in my mouth at the levels end. The game finishes strong with its winter locations, giving us a few mechanics that would be impossible to do in the warmer environments.
The journey you share with Yarny is special. Every level is a hand crafted marvel with incredible detail and an impeccable musical score. Coldwood Interactive has created a charming platformer in Unravel with a character in Yarny that is so incredibly expressive despite his cute, but simplistic design. Unravel is truly a memory worth holding on to.
Unravel has a cost of $19.99 and is a digital only title. It is available on the Playstation and Xbox Stores, and for PC with EA’s Origin. If you have EA access on Xbox One you will receive a 10% discount on the price.