By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on January 17, 2016
After putting my skills as an assassin to the test in the Hitman Beta and various Assassin’s Creed games, not to mention splattering a lot of zombies in the Resident Evil Zero HD Remake, it was time for me to play a somewhat less violent game. I had my eye on a particular game for quite some time, so I decided that it was finally time to give it a go. This particular game is a platform / puzzle game, featuring a protagonist made up out of yarn. And no, it’s not Yoshi’s Woolly World or even Kirby’s Epic yarn; the game I’m talking about is Unravel.
In Unravel, we meet Yarny, a little red-colored character that explores the world around him, solving all sorts of physics-based puzzles as he makes his way through beautifully crafted levels and breathtaking environments. Yarny is, as you might have guessed from his name, made up out of a thread of yarn. And although the yarn looks cute and helps you reach places you normally couldn’t reach, it has one major disadvantage; it unravels as you make your way through a level (hence the name of the game). At a certain point, Yarny simply runs out of Yarn and can’t go any further. In order to proceed beyond the reach of his original length of thread, Yarny will have to collect new treads of yarn that are scattered across the levels. Whenever he reaches a new thread, he refills his dwindling frame and is ready to pursue his quest. It is absolutely imperative that you collect these new threads of yarn, or you won’t make it to the end of the level.
So why is Yarny on this adventure? Well, he is trying to restore the family-related memories of an elderly woman who (if I may verture a guess) misses her family dearly. The memories have faded, which becomes apparent when we see a photo album, filled with blurred and faded photographs. It’s Yarny’s task to retrieve these memories by collecting a certain small artifact at the end of each level. With each artifact Yarny collects, more and more photographs come back into focus and, with them, memories of happier days. You start restoring these memories by making your way to one of the framed photographs in the elderly lady’s living-room. Each photo represents a string of memories of a certain trip or vacation. Once you have found a photo you can interact with, you enter the level that goes with that photo and set off to collect the corresponding memories.
The first thing I noticed as I journeyed through the picture-perfect world of Unravel is the attention to detail that went into creating this game. From the backgrounds to the smallest item in the game; everything looks absolutely stunning. Because Yarny is a very small character, everything appears larger than it normally would. This shift in scale let’s you do things you normally wouldn’t be able to. For instance, successfully cross a pond-sized puddle of water by building a bridge out of floating apples or using a fallen branch as a raft. The environments are all inspired by the natural beauty of Northern Scandanavia as is, I suspect, the sometimes melancholic but always awesome soundtrack. These sights and sounds are enough to make you never want to leave Yarny’s world again and really help to make Unravel feel like a larger than life adventure.
The puzzles are intricately designed and force you to use your wits to make your way through the levels. The key to successfully completing a puzzle and being able to proceed past it is, as you may suspect, the use of yarn. Yarny is able to lasso certain objects with the end of his thread, enabling him to climb up to those hard to reach places or use it as a vine in order to swing across gaps. You can also tie the yarn between two fixed points and use it as a small trampoline. Finally, it lets you lasso certain objects and pull them towards you. These seemingly simple tools let you overcome even the most intricate of puzzles.
I must admit, I absolutely love Unravel; it’s one of those games that seem to have everything going for them. The protagonist is outright adorable (which is a word I don’t use very often, so that must mean something), the graphics are stunning, and the soundtrack is really relaxing and perfectly enhances the overall feel of the game. The puzzles are fantastic and a lot of fun to solve and the story, although it’s told without so much as a single word, is a really moving and powerful one. Taking all these things into account, there’s only one conclusion I can come to: Unravel is a very, very good platform / puzzle game and is guaranteed to win the heart of practically every gamer that ventures out into its world.
So that leaves us with one final question: “Why does the character unravel as he progresses through the levels, other than to make it more difficult for the player to complete the game?” Well, I could venture a guess of my own or just make up some ludicrous theory, but the answer is already given to us by the game’s director, Martin Sahlin at Coldwood Interactive: “the yarn that makes up Yarny represents love, and that the character unravels as they travel away from what they love.”
Well said, sir... well said.