Unravel opens up the world to a little yarn doll, giving me a new appreciation for the material and all it is capable of. This doesn’t mean I’ll start knitting scarves anytime soon, but when I see one blowing from someone’s neck in the winter wind, thread pulled loose from the end, I won’t be able to help think: “Oh, the places you’ll go!”
Unravel tells the story of an old woman, or maybe two sisters, or maybe a businessman who hates the environment… One or all of those things. I’m not really sure about the story alluded to during Yarny journey through memories lost to the empty scrapbook, but when it comes down to it that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is Yarny, a little yarn doll with the ability to move through the world with Spider-man like skill.
Why Yarny wants to repair an old woman’s photo album is anyone’s guess, but he sure is determined to do so as you move him from spring to winter, climbing trees, crossing streams, and fighting animals like a member of a Honey I Shrunk The Kids cast. The main platformer gameplay of Unravel focuses on the yarn itself: as Yarny traverses the world he leaves a path of red yarn wherever he goes. More often than not this is just to show the path he has taken, or to backtrack when need be, but occasionally it also hinders movement as Yarny can run out of his supply.
Considering the amount of conveniently stashed yarn placed at perfect integrals throughout the path, this never really becomes a true concern. Instead, the main obstacle to the player is, well, the obstacles. I will say that I’ve never been this frustrated with yarn before seeing as all that I’ve come across prior to this couldn’t die. But Yarny can, and he will die a lot. If you don’t catch him during a long drop he will go splat, if you don’t pull him out of the water with a split second reaction he will drown, if he gets smashed by a rock his tiny little yarn bones will shatter. Also, animals are jerks. Crabs are jerks, groundhogs are jerks, roaches are jerks, and birds are giant douchebag jerks.
In one level a fish helps Yarny ferry across a pond (don’t worry, fish, you are represented kindly), and it is in moments like this that it’s easy to remember how beautiful this game is. It’s super fun, sure, as you learn the rules of the game and fling yourself about like Simba in the “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” level of The Lion King for the SNES, but above all the ease of immersion is perfect as Yarny himself is in awe of all he sees. He’s constantly interacting with the world around him: watching animals amble by, shivering against the blowing snow, panicking as a car roars overhead, swatting at idiot mosquitos who have confused his red lines for veins, and this acts as a subtle reminder for the player to take it all in as well, and appreciate all of the elements the world builders included. Even the litter is awesome. This probably isn’t the best message, but trash helped me to the end of the game, so yay litter!
All joking aside, even as I struggled with certain puzzles I still found myself amazed at the world created in Unravel. The concept is simple, the story is debatable, but it’s an amazingly designed game, plain and simple.