There are many reason I like to play video games. Sometime I like to be transported to a different place and have an experience that I can’t have in the real world. Sometimes I want to connect with friends online. Other times, I want a challenge that makes me feel like I accomplished something. But on some rare occasions, I want to have a very relaxed gaming session that doesn’t require a great amount of dexterity. Coldwood Interactive’s “Unravel” (published by EA for PC, PS4, and Xbox One) fits into that mold almost perfectly and also succeeds at providing some of the most rich-looking environments I’ve ever seen in a 2-d side-scrolling game.
You play as “Yarny”, a small character composed completely of (you guessed it) red yarn. You begin the game with some very basic platforming that reveals the games primary mechanic. You’re limited in the distance you can travel because Yarny’s body is attached to the environment at the beginning of the game. When he “unravels”, you can no longer make any forward progress. Along the way, however, you come across extra pieces of yarn that adds to the rest of his body and allows you to progress further. This makes traversal slightly more complicated, as some of the later puzzles require you to reassess your path through levels to allow you enough tether to keep moving forward.
Another interesting aspect of the yarn mechanic is the ability to attach pieces of yarn to different attachable items to help move the level along. For instance, you can create a sort of “bridge” between to surfaces which can be used as a sort of trampoline to reach higher areas. You can also attach a piece of yarn to a higher object and Tarzan your way across gaps. These mechanics are very simple on the surface, but the puzzles build on this simplicity in very interesting ways without bending your brain a great deal.
What really sells this game, however, isn’t the gameplay. I’m not one for hyperbole, but I mean it when I say that this might be the best-looking 2-d platformer that I’ve ever played. This game makes “Yoshi’s Woolly World” look like something from last gen. Yarny himself looks like you could reach out and feel the fuzziness of his body. The environments look almost photorealistic at times, particularly in the far distance. On several occasions, I found myself taking my hands off of the controller just to stare at what was going on behind Yarny. It’s simply breathtaking and makes the $19.99 price tag well worth it.
I did have one minor issue with “Unravel” in that the gameplay doesn’t hold its luster through the entire game. It’s fun to play around at the very beginning, but by the end it just wasn’t bringing anything new or exciting to the table. This is only a minor flaw, however, as the game is short enough that it doesn’t make that much of a difference. The last two levels of the game were also a bit disappointing as they felt like a chore for the first time in the entire game. I also found myself very confused by whatever was going on in the story. It seems to be trying to convey some kind of message, but that lesson was lost on me by the time the credits rolled.
“Unravel” is a refreshing, relaxing experience that I hope many more people will try. I don’t remember the last game I played where I felt almost soothed while playing it. It was so nice to not be frustrated by gameplay or intricate puzzles. I simply worked my way through the game, soaked up its beauty, and felt satisfied by the end of this 5-6 hour art piece. Grab yourself a warm cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket and do exactly what I did. Enjoy it.
“Unravel” is available on PC (Origin), PS4, and Xbox one with an MSRP of $19.99.