Prepare to feel. Unravel, Coldwood Interactive’s newand adorable title,is not just a game. It may seem cliche or tawdry to describe a game as a journey, or a grand adventure, but if any game is worthy of these descriptions, Unravel is surely the one.
The premise of Unravel is a simple one: You play as Yarny, a small, inquisitive little hero made of red yarn. Yarnycomes to lifein the home of an elderly woman, whom we will affectionately refer to simply as ‘Grandma’ from here on. Once we take control of Yarny, we get to experience the life and memories of Grandmaand her family as Yarny journeys through various levels based on important moments in Grandma’slife.
Yarny begins his adventurein a gorgeous and rich autumn environment, filled with falling leaves, crisp apples, and innocent wildlife. Each memory, each moment in time that Yarny experiences, has a specific, themed level attached to it.Throughout each course,floating balls of light will merge into images of Grandma and her loved ones in the background, giving Yarny a glimpse into the past.
Every level is filled with puzzles and challenges, and the object of thelevels is to solve each of the puzzles and reach the end of the course, where Yarny collects a small, fabricemblem that represents the course just completed. Yarny then returns to Grandma’s home and adds the emblem to a scrapbook, which eventually is filled with pictures and quotations as you progress through the game.
The puzzles in Unravel range from fairly simple to quite complex. Now I am not, by any definition, talented at puzzle games, and so some of the levels took me upwards of half an hour to complete. But even so, the gameplay of Unravel is addictive. Each level, and indeed each puzzle, feels unique and special, and each conundrum challenges the player to think and be creative in order to reach the end. Yarny himself jumps, swings through trees like Tarzan on strings of yarn, outruns gophers, hides from murderous birds, and operates heavy machinery to make it at the end of each stage.Due to the puzzle-solving, platforming nature of the game, as well as Yarny’s aesthetic design, it has often been compared to LittleBigPlanet, and rightfully so.But whereas LittleBigPlanet is fun, crazy, and accessible by almost any player of any age, Unravel is a more refined game.
But challenging puzzles aren’t the only thing that Unravel has going for it. Right from the initial cutscene, it is clear thatthis is a gorgeous game, and it took me a moment to discern whether the opening movie isanimated or live action. After determining that it is in fact animated, I was shocked by how real it looked, and that shocked stupor continued throughout my entire playthrough.
Every single moment of the gameis stunningly detailed with vibrant colours and gorgeous scenery that accentuate the mood of the current course. The bright huesof the mountainside and the beach bring a feeling of giddiness and fun; the fresh snow of winter heralds in a more somber and foreboding mood as Grandma gets older;the dark, wet, and stormy surroundings of the mid-point of the game are depressing and filled with regret. Unravel isn’t simply the most beautiful game I’ve ever played visually, but maybe even emotionally as well. The game uses its beauty and detail to tell a story that words could never adequately convey.
The fact that Yarny is the most fun and most adorable video game character in years doesn’t hurt the game, either. You wouldn’t really think that a little guy made of red yarn who can’t speak could have much emotion or personality, but in Yarny’s case, you’d be wrong. One of the most character defining moments in the whole game is when Yarny steps outside into nature for the very first time. He looks around, taking in the sights and sounds of autumn, and as he runs forward he is startled by the sudden movement of a butterfly taking flight. Then, when Yarny sees another butterfly just moments later, he attempts to sneak up on it and grab it; there are other moments like this one scattered throughout the game. Though not all of these moments are asserene and uplifting, each one illustrates Yarny’s sense of wonder, curiosity, and determination to witnessGrandma’s talefrom beginning to end.
Unravel’s story deals with the joy of family and the destruction of nature, as well as love, loss, and finding happiness in the midst of turmoil. The story, and especially its conclusion, istouching and profound. The tale that Yarny unravels is more than just a narrative about human life. It is, at its deepest level, a cry for mankind to slow down, to enjoy the things that surround us, and to to never sever the ties that bind us all together.
At this point, you may be wondering if I am going to say anything negative about Unravel. No, I’m not. I expected to enjoy this game, and my expectations were greatly exceeded. If you like platformers or puzzle games, then you’ll enjoy Unravel. If you need a good cry, then Unravel is a safe bet. And if you are even remotely human, then some aspect of Unravel will speak to you, and you may even be blessed with the ability to come away from Unravel a better person then when you started it.
An early contender for Game of the Year 2016
Unravel is beautiful, insightful, and potentially life changing.