Unravel is a game about a creature made of yarn that goes on a journey to find the missing pieces of its creator’s photo album. Yarny, the lovable yarn creature, does this by exploring worlds based off of photographs sitting around the house to find little adornments that he attaches to the photo album to restore its blurred contents.
At its core, Unravel is a platformer where you utilize the yarn that comprises our knitted hero’s very being to solve puzzles. As you solve these puzzles, you’ll find secrets and gradually uncover the history of our adorable protagonist’s creator through scenes depicted in the background of the game’s stages and through a combination of inspirational messages and pictures within the gradually-unlocked photo album.
Let’s just get this out of the way… Unravel is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. I don’t know how these tiny developers are able to create such vibrant and beautiful worlds when many massive companies repeatedly fail to do so, but I hope they keep it up. Each stage in Unravel fits within the greater whole, but feels so distinct that it is simply amazing. I loved admiring the environments and appreciating this game’s colourful art style. And what better to fit perfectly into this vivid world than a cute red yarn-creature?
The sound effects and music, while somewhat less obvious, help a lot to bring this pretty game to life. Unravel’s sound design is understated, and it can be hard to notice how effective it is. The sound effects are suitable and help to create a cohesive world out of these worlds. The music is subtle and charming, and helps to give the game a bit stronger of an emotional tie.
This is extremely important because of how abstract the game’s story is. The game’s opening scene shows an old lady walking up the stairs carrying a basket of yarn… a ball falls out of it, rolls behind a couch, and Yarny walks out. From there, you approach a faded photo album and then enter a picture sitting on the table to find yourself in a fairly simple stage that acts as a tutorial. Over time you’ll probably begin to connect the dots as to what the game is meant to represent, but the abstract nature means it can be hard to develop that emotional attachment that makes gaming so moving. If not for the game’s strong, subtle soundtrack and how adorable Yarny is, the game might’ve failed completely to leave its mark emotionally.
In my eyes, the game’s greatest asset is the creativity of its gameplay. The platforming mechanics are brilliant and fun to use, albeit a bit limited. I found myself thinking there was probably only one solution for many of the game’s harder segments, which is a bit of a disappointment considering how creative the mechanics are overall. While that one solution was usually not terribly hard to find, it would’ve been nice to have a bit more personal expression throughout.
That being said, the yarn manipulation was a ton of fun. Creating bridges and trampolines never got tired or old, and figuring out where you needed to leave your little yarn tethers in order to progress was a great experience overall. The checkpoints, on the other hand, sometimes felt a little poorly thought out as there were cases where you’d find back to back checkpoints with almost no content between them and other times you’d have relatively difficult sections without a single checkpoint throughout.
While most of the game’s puzzles are designed relatively well, there are a few that were frustratingly difficult. The reason for this? It wasn’t that there was a complex puzzle to solve, that would’ve been awesome. It was, quite simply, that the game left you little room for error but also little room for creativity. The game’s second last scene was a perfect example of this. They basically abandoned the mechanics the game was built on and left you with little to do besides walk forward… and yet they managed to make that frustrating through punishing restrictions and difficulty.
Taking the game on a whole, it’s a very unique experience. The gameplay is very satisfying when they let you truly explore it, and the puzzles feel rewarding to solve. The graphics are good and the art direction stellar. The story is even interesting, if abstract… it’s just a few holes here and there that detract from the experience that may make it harder to appreciate in the long run.