On our PCU podcast I have consistently expressed my disappointment with this current generation of games. Every major release seems to be another edition of Madden, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or an attempt to unseat one of the above. Unravel is for me the game that I was waiting for, one that delivers on the promise of the potential of the video game to be technically inventive and visually beautiful with a story that resonates on an emotional level.
The premise of Unravel is as novel as the game itself. An elderly woman keeps a faded picture album filled with her family who appear to have moved away or unfortunately have passed away. After looking longingly at a family photo on the wall a ball of red yarn falls out of her basket as she walks up the stairs. The yarn comes to life in the form of “Yarny” comes to life and sets out on an adventure to gather the missing pieces of the photo album.
From a technical design standpoint Unravel is brilliantly designed. It is puzzle platformer that appears to be simple but is deceptively complex. Yarny is able to throw yarn on to hooks to swing over obstacles, tie yarn on nails to create places to climb down or climb up, create bridges to move objects or use as a trampoline. An interesting twist is the need to manage the amount of yarn that Yarny is able to use. If you tie yarn on every nail you’ll find yourself unable to move forward without backtracking. It is an inventive twist that makes players contemplate each individual move. The quality of the puzzles reminded me a lot of Portal 2, their progressively difficulty builds perfectly always throwing a twist on the skills that have just been developed.
Visually Unravel is equal to the quality of its story and its design. I had the chance to play through the first two levels and each was crafted in loving detail. The colors are lush and vivid, even fall leaves have multiple shades of brown.. An old child’s tricycle and sandbox felt tactile and real. These graphic details I expected, what was surprising was the background which felt as developed as the actual level that I was playing. It was like a HD version of a old 8 bit game, it was a nice creative touch and completed the feel out Yarny’s world.
Despite the graphics, design and quality of the puzzles really the defining characteristic of Unravel is its emotion. As Yarny completes levels the pictures in the faded picture album become clear showing the childhood of the children of the family, essentially reconnecting the memories of this family. In most games your compelled to complete the game to “kill the villain” or to “witness the spectacle of it all”, in Unravel I want to know how do my actions help. The music adds to the atmosphere and ultimately Unravel is a very touching story that I can’t wait to get to the conclusion of.
Unravel is everything it was purported to be when it was unveiled at E3, it is simply an outstanding game that I think everyone should play.
Five Balls of Yarn Out of Five