Coldwood make it clear from the outset that a lot of love has been put into Unravel, indeed they inform you of the fact before the game has even begun, but they needn’t have bothered. From the first melancholic strings over the intro logos to the picturesque home screen, the game oozes charm.
Some levels may illicit an emotional response from people, but it’s entirely possible that others will find nothing in the story to relate to, and could easily feel a little underwhelmed by the simplistic telling.
Even if the story does fail to resonate, Unravel still works as a decent platformer and as a great looking game. The levels themselves are beautifully rendered, and accompanied by the charming soundtrack, the combination feels almost therapeutic. You’ll undoubtedly share Yarny’s awe as he steps out into each environment for the first time.
2D platformers can make creating an immersive world a bit tricky, seeing as exploration is limited, but everything on-screen in Unravel feels alive. Grass and flowers sway in the wind, animals trample past in the background, snow swirls in storms and when it’s all viewed from the scaled down perspective of Yarny, it makes the ordinary seem much more impressive. Fish become improvised engines, broken logs are bob sleds, kites are gliders and even birds step in to assist. Watching Yarny interacting with them is a heart-warming experience.
The levels themselves are beautifully rendered, and accompanied by the charming soundtrack, the combination feels almost therapeutic.
The game does offer some level of replay-value, with five collectable secrets hidden throughout each level. The majority of the secrets will be hard to miss, but chances are you’ll have to go back for a few of the more well-hidden ones. Displaying a ‘4/5 Secrets found’ next to the entry point of each level seems a cert to get completionists back for more.
Unravel’s platforming is fairly intuitive. Asides from the ability to jump, Yarny can throw out a lasso made of his own anatomy to grapple onto knots of string dotted about the levels in order to climb, swing over gaps or manipulate objects. The yarn can also be used to create makeshift bridges and trampolines, while holding LT allows you to retrace your steps by climbing back up the yarn trail left behind as you move, acting as a safety net. It’s a useful trick when you want to explore everything in one area before moving onto the next and want a shortcut back to your original point, but platforming purists may find it takes any element of difficulty from the game.
Most of the puzzles that you come across will require a combination of these abilities to beat, but they aren’t too difficult to figure out, with only one or two properly stalling progress for some time, and more often than not it was due to overthinking the challenge. Most of the time, the obvious answer was usually the right one.
Using the yarn with merry abandon will eventually cause Yarny to start withering away, and limits how far you can move before finding the spirals of yarn which refill him and also act as checkpoints. The finite yarn does add some tactical elements to the gameplay, making you look for the most efficient and economic routes, but the checkpoints are handed out fairly gratuitously and there are only a few times that a low supply of yarn will hold you back.
Unravel may not be the hardest platformer on the market, but it’s certainly one of the best looking, accompanied by an excellent score and set pieces that create some memorable moments. Any gripes with the difficulty would be a bit unfair, as the overall experience is tailored towards a more relaxed adventure, one that plays on your own nostalgia and means Unravel can be a surprisingly moving game because of it.