Game Review: Unravel

Scott McMullon

Lover of literature, film and music living in Essex (no jokes please!). 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars' - Oscar Wilde

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Unravel is a rare game that manages to strike a balance between being sweet and simple, yet also elegant and oddly profound. Swedish studio Coldbright Interactive’s latest game manages to give a feeling of warmth and gentleness which would not feel out of place in the best Pixar films and thanks to its addictive and enjoyable gameplay it will keep a lot of players coming back for more.

The story of Unravel is surprisingly unassuming and starts off in a way which plays up to its disarming charm. An old woman in a cottage looks over pictures and mementos of her life and as she picks up a basket of yarn a lone ball rolls away out of shot.

From that, Yarny (the game’s silent protagonist) emerges and travels about the world. Yarny is a small toy-like creature in a big world, collecting memories and mementos, and showing the player the pictures and reminiscences this woman collected over many years.

The caveat, however, is that the more Yarny travels away from where he started, the more he unravels – forcing players to find new sources to constantly replenish him.

20160210 Unravel Pic 1

Looking at the gameplay we have, on its face, a very simple premise. Yarny is out collecting memories and tokens, forcing the character to run, jump and climb through a big and hazardous world.

Because Yarny constantly unravels, the door is opened for some puzzle-solving. He has the ability to use his body to tie to nails or propel himself off outcrops to reach far-flung areas. This adds an extra dimension to the gameplay, as the player comes across some surprisingly tricky obstacles which will test your brain power. Even the trickier parts were never insurmountable and often it felt amazing to figure them out.

In terms of music we found ourselves very impressed by the score in this title. The folk style musical backing gives the listener a clue as to the game’s origins in Sweden and manages to be exotic enough to grab our interest and still exotic enough to continually demand our attention. This becomes more and more of an essential element as Yarny remains a silent protagonist and as such forces the player to capture the mood based on what they see within the game and what they feel as a result of the music with no interruption from he character on screen. This combination of factors is executed beautiful here and helps reinforce the themes of something small that is also something large.

20160210 Unravel Pic 2

We here at Vada have long believed that video games can be viewed as both mass market entertainment as well as being works of art. In that respect Coldbright Interactive is to be commended for creating a game with the same mass appeal and yet manages to still represent a tremendous amount of artistic expression. Indeed Yarny as a character, while being silent, manages to give a great deal of gravitas and energy to the overall game. While at times we suppose there is a chance that the title can be a little overly sweet or, dare we say, twee, this does not detract from what is a functional and addictive game that possesses a wonderfully bright and beautiful story.

Unravel represents a rising tide in great indie games which are destined for wider success. It has a warm and relatable character, stunning visuals and an addictive soundtrack as well as gameplay which keeps a player coming back for more. If you are looking for a good game to try in the lead up to some of the years best upcoming releases then this is a perfect title to start with.

Unravel is out now for PS4, Xbox One and Windows

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