There’s something special about Unravel, and I think it has everything to do with the knitted red, somewhat humanoid character you spend the game playing as. He’s undeniably adorable, but you knew that. He likely wormed his way in to your heart the very first time you saw him.

Uravel (6)

There’s more to him though, and it comes down to the wide range of emotions that he’s capable of not just displaying, but of creating. Without much in the way of visage, and without a single uttered word, the little red guy is surprisingly, jarringly life-like; a woollen wonder that the four-year old somewhere in my psyche wants to grab through the TV screen and cling to. He’s able to express himself through his animation, and the way he reacts to the stunningly created, aesthetically beautiful world he inhabits.

Uravel (5)

The way he moves and the way he feels is delightfully, uncannily authentic. Watching him joyfully skip through a verdant, Scandinavian field, butterflies fluttering about while insects crawl along the grass beside him is joyful, and it’s the environments here that act as the second great big drawcard.

The hazy, soft focus backgrounds bring the levels to life; its sunlit fields, rocky roads and cold, windy and even snow-capped mountains exude an atmosphere and charm to rival Yarny himself. It looks like a sort of hyper-reality, a better looking, and more welcoming version of the world we live in.

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The game’s music elevates this even more, an orchestra of distinctly Scandinavian sounds that crescendo and crash, the plunge in to a lull complementing the on-screen action. The music, wordless as the rest of the game, is emotionally charged, which together with the game’s aesthetic and Yarny’s demeanour tugged at my nostalgia and sentimentality. It’s the kind of game that invokes a sort of quiet, introspective contemplation, and reminded me very much of thatgamecompany’s Flower in that regard. It even follows a similar path; overwhelming joyousness that becomes darker and more ominous as it goes.

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There’s a story here, a very personal one that’s wrapped up in saccharine sentimentality. It starts off showing us an old woman, a ball of red wool dropping from her basket. That ball, is of course, Yarny – and he hops about in and out of her photographs – re-invoking memories. It tells a sentimental and obvious story, but it’s one that’s personal. It is, however, not my story – so I had very little interest in paging through the photographs that become unlocked. Having not grown up in Northern Sweden, there’s no real sentimental attachment here for me, making the thin narrative little more than window dressing.

Uravel (2)

I also just wish the game itself was better. Unravel is a puzzle platformer, and thought it shares much of its DNA with platforming staples like Super Mario, there’s more to it than just moving left and right and jumping. Yarny can use bits of himself as a lasso, able to grab on to bits of the environment to climb on to higher ledges, or swing about. He can tie knots ate specified points, using the taut yarn between them as a bridge, or even as a makeshift trampoline. Because he’s using his own wool to do all of this and that fact that he’s perpetually tethered , he’ll unspool as he goes along, meaning he’ll eventually run out of himself, unable to continue. You’ll have to find spools of wool (which act as checkpoints), inexplicably littered every to replenish his textile reserves.

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Uravel (1)

It’s functional, but it all feels very single-noted. The puzzle themselves are never head-scratchers, employing instead the same basic ideas until they grow tiresome. The platforming isn’t – for the most part – especially challenging or interesting either, becoming rote by the game’s end. It does, sometimes, veer in to being frustrating. Every now and then (especially within the last 3 or four memories) you’ll encounter a section that requires what seems like unnecessarily fast reaction times, and other that operate almost entirely through trial and error. As beautiful as it all is, there’s a point where it just stops being fun. That said, it costs R200 and is very much worth playing.

Last Updated: February 11, 2016

Unravel
Summary
As a metaphor for the ties that bind a family together, Yarny and Unravel are exceptional; beautiful, and invoking a quiet contemplation, It's just hard not to wish it was a better game.
7.7
Unravel was reviewed on Xbox One
75 / 100

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • Pariah

    So I’m wondering – is this a close knit family?

  • konfab

    Missed opportunity…

  • Hammersteyn
    • Darren Peach

      Noticed you seem hot to like EA much. Do you ever buy their games and why, if you don’t mind me asking, do you not like them ?

      • Captain JJ ‘saurus

        I feel the same about EA as Hammer.
        Because of crappy business practice I don’t support them. Doesn’t matter what games they sell.

        • Darren Peach

          Fair enough. There generally seems to be plenty of workplace abuse in creative fields. I know through the grapevine that the VFX industry is very dodge in the states. Artists have zero job security and are basically nomads. When Ang Lee was on stage accepting his oscar for The Life of PI, All the folks that did the Vfx for the film were picketing outside the ceremony that night. While he was accepting all the glory, the real talent lost their jobs. When asked about it, he showed zero empathy and implied they deserved no credit at all. If you show descent you get blacklisted and producers avoid using you. Other countries implement tax breaks and Hollywood is outsourcing all their vfx needs further damaging these peoples lives. The Game Industry has a similar problem. TV is just as bad. Work all night without recompense and no one even cares. Creativety is a slippery slope. If I was entitled to rayalties for my work, I would be a rich guy. But, In life we are made to live in servitude in order to make a handful of folks very rich indeed. Is EA something like that ?

          • Captain JJ ‘saurus

            Yea man. It’s really unfair.
            EA is something like that. If you haven’t heard of it before…check this out: ea-spouse.livejournal.com
            My moral stance is a bit stronger than my want for the next shiny game. So I’m perfectly happy staying away from products of companies who operate like this.

          • Captain JJ ‘saurus

            Not to mention how they were messing with the Dungeon Keeper mobile game ratings system to make the game look good on the online store (terrible game aside).

          • Darren Peach

            I know the feeling. I avoid Ang Lee’s films at all costs. A small gesture, but done with conviction.

      • Hammersteyn

        I last bought PVZ from them I think. Was dirt cheap. EA is the no.1 thing for me personally what’s wrong with the AAA industry. There are countless reasons. Recently it was the release of Battlefront and how shallow the game is. Funny thing is the game’s price has been slashed by 50% last I checked because people saw through the shallow game it is I suspect and hope.

        • Darren Peach

          I guess when we support these sorts of things, we enable them.

          • Hammersteyn

            I try not to. Haven’t bought any sport titles of there’s in a decade. Nor Dragon Age , any Battlefield (except 3 which was a gift and I hardly play), any NFS since 2009 I think. NFS most wanted was the last one. Not even Battlefront. I did buy ME3 but that was before I realized what a plague they’ve become on the industry. There is a new ME coming out later but I’m content to buy that of someone else 2nd just to deprive EA of their monies. Sure it’s not a lot but it’s the principal

            They do bring out games people love and the games are decent. But they’ve taken more than they’ve given. Look what they did to Dungeon Keeper FFS. I won’t be sad if they closed shop. Not that they will what with Europe buying FIFA and America buying NFL every friggin year even though they just change the number at the end.

        • Darren Peach

          Do you agree that the publisher model has destroyed the diversity in games ?

          • Hammersteyn

            No because indies came to the rescue. Publishers did destroy smaller studios like Westwood and Origin. Bye bye C&C and Wing commander games. What EA does is they scoop up ‘n studio, suck the life out of their property or whoring it out to DLC and MT. Prime example being Dead Space 3 and then closes shop when the game fails to meet their expectations.

        • Darren Peach

          One more thing, there is a example of the evil in Hollywood that is bound to shock, A producer once said it was his job to bankrupt the VFX studios in order to get the cheapest price.

          • Captain JJ ‘saurus

            Jeez. Now I’m curious.

          • Hammersteyn

            Never heard of that. What’s VFX?

          • Darren Peach

            Visual effects. Computer Graphics.

          • Hammersteyn

            Missed that story completely

  • I know EA is involved with this game, but after watching a stream last night of Unravel I just have to buy this game. The story and visuals are amazing.

  • Captain JJ ‘saurus

    For all its creativity I still can’t get over the fact that they could not come up with a better name than Yarny.
    Let’s just call the protagonist in the next Assassin’s Creed. Assassiny

    • Commander Admiral Chief

      Or the main character from Postal as Postal Dude

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    If someone can’t solve the easy puzzles, does that make them a knit-wit?

    • Captain JJ ‘saurus

      You’re just grabbing at strings now….wait…no…that’s not it.

    • NO!

    • miaau

      Sigh. Yes. probably.

      Or, you know, me. probably.

  • I loved Jim Sterling’s review haha

    • Captain JJ ‘saurus

      Did you hear that Geoff? He says yours sucks.

      • miaau

        He actually made no such assertion. He merely stated he loved a different one. That could mean he disliked this one or not.

        • Commander Admiral Chief

          Or it could be…..a joke?

          😛

        • Captain JJ ‘saurus

          Damn it man. You’re not supposed to use logic 😉
          Rince doesn’t comply with logic.

  • Pieter Kruger

    Yeah, it’s been done……

  • VampyreSquirrel

    I WANT THIS GAME!

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