ColdWood Interactive achieved something incredible with Unravel; they made me care about a tiny yarn person.
Unravel exuberates charm at every moment, whether it’s in the game’s stunning visuals, beautiful score (which has been stuck in my head at times) or the way Yarny interacts with the environments around him.
Little touches to the game such as an Apple falling on Yarny or the way he gradually gets covered while walking in snow add enjoyment to moments where all you’re really doing is walking from one platforming or puzzle section to the next.
Other more scripted moments such as Yarny chasing after a nearby Butterfly and having it escape his grasps or the way he shakes himself dry after being submerged in water brought a cheesy grin to my face.
Yarny can’t speak, but through small actions like these ColdWood made me care about him far more than I care about most characters in a video game.
The core mechanic of the game is that Yarny is in fact made out of yarn and is able to unravel in order to traverse areas or solve puzzles.
For much of the game you’ll be setting up makeshift trampolines and yarn bridges, designing pulley systems and swinging from point to point with your yarn lasso.
While this mechanic is a really fun and interesting idea, the appeal starts to fade as the game progresses and you discover you are using mostly the same tactics to solve the puzzles and get over obstacles.
The game’s core also suffers from having sub-par platforming mechanics.
You’ll be using Yarny’s lasso for a decent amount of jumps during the game, but there are still a sizeable amount of tricky jumps where you can only rely on Yarny’s normal jumping ability, which is not something that should’ve been relied on for precision platforming.
There are also times when it is difficult to tell whether something is part of the foreground or background, resulting in you having to resort to trial and error at times when making a jump.
As you solve puzzles and progress through a level Yarny will continue unravelling and can even run out of yarn to use if you haven’t reached one of the spindles to give Yarny more thread.
It’s enjoyable to watch Yarny’s body slowly change as you’re taking on a puzzle and it serves as a great indicator of how much leeway you have.
What’s most disappointing however is that the idea of Yarny running out of yarn is rarely ever played with.
I only experienced a few occasions where I had to retrace my steps and figure out where I was wasting yarn so I could solve the puzzle with yarn to spare.
I think it would’ve been far more interesting if ColdWood played around with this idea a lot more when designing the game’s puzzles.
I also found during my time playing Unravel that I was occasionally solving puzzles without fully realising what I had done to achieve the solution.
At times you’ll simply tie and untie random knots and end up with the correct solution, while there are also times where you can solve puzzles in ways that the developers clearly didn’t intend.
This can be particularly troublesome in the early stages where they teach you many of the ways to solve certain puzzles and can leave you scratching your head later in the game.
Possibly the biggest annoyance I found with the gameplay was that two of Unravel’s twelve levels are incredibly tedious.
The level “Berry Mire” puts you in a swamp type setting and sees you getting pestered by small bugs, which slows your movement spend down to a crawl.
Having to constantly bat these bugs away with the lasso was extremely annoying and only served to make puzzle solving more tedious.
Similarly the level “Last Leaf” is set in a snow storm which is constantly blowing Yarny backwards, which quickly becomes incredibly frustrating and in no way enjoyable.
Unravel does tell a very loose story, which is nice to have transpiring quite literally in the background as you progress. Although at times I found it a little tough to follow along with the story that develops.
As Yarny, the levels you are going through are places that have significant meaning to your creator (a now elderly woman) and you find yourself going through these places and gathering memories which are placed in a book at the end of each level.
Each set of memories has a jump in time between the next and at times it was difficult to fully understand what was happening from memory to memory.
Despite this, I still found the ending to be beautiful and very touching.
Unravel is quite a short game and it doesn’t have much to offer in terms of replayability.
There are five collectibles to find in each level, but in my experience it seemed like you would come across at least three of these per level without putting much thought or effort in.
Despite its’ shortcomings, Unravel is still a fun experience. It’s full of charm and childlike wonder, which made me feel nostalgic as I went on this journey with Yarny. Unfortunately, it’s let down by puzzle and platform mechanics that could’ve done with being further fleshed out to make them less repetitive and more interesting.