Developed by Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts, I have found that the recently released Unravel 2 is one of those rare games that can only be described as ‘delightful’. I have never played the first game, Unravel (though I clearly now need to fix that oversight), but even without a prior connection to little Yarny, I was immediately hooked into his story as he is flung from a ship into a tumultuous ocean amidst a raging storm. After being washed ashore, the little anthropomorphised yarn creature finds something unexpected: another yarny, who immediately mends Yarny’s snapped thread by tying the two of them together, restoring Yarny’s lost spark and creating a bond between them.
I think it’s important to note that this adventure truly begins with a new friend and a sense of hope, because these two themes stay without you all through your journey, and it is together that the two yarnies explore a beautifully constructed world, solving puzzles and outwitting their enemies.
To look at, Unravel Two is utterly gorgeous. The small scale of the customisable protagonists allow the most tiny of details within each level to truly stand out; every aspect – every leaf, flower, or tiny animal – coming together beautifully to create unique, interesting levels. The semi-photorealistic rendering of the world around you, combined with the softened backgrounds help to create a world with depth, and as you play you can’t help but feel like there is more to the world than what your characters are experiencing. This is something that not all platformers manage, and something that I think Coldwood Interactive has just about perfected – and perhaps it’s not really a necessary part of the game, but man, does it make this platformer stand out. When I was playing, there was a moment in a darkened, rainy city with street lamps in the background where I had to just stop and stare; with the deep blue tones and the diffused light, it looked like something out of an art gallery. Even in its darker moments, this game is undeniably, unquestionably pretty, and combined with the music that lifts and falls to match Yarny’s adventure, I have to say that this is a game with genuine artistic flair.
In terms of gameplay, Unravel 2 is a brilliant combination of slow, meticulously planned actions that allow you to unravel the latest puzzle that stands in your path, and fast, action packed races against the enemy or deadly environment, using the world around you to catapult yourself forward. There is a sense of joy in the movements of your characters, and the swinging, jumping and wall flips become more satisfying the longer you play and the more you become accustomed to the ways your two yarnies can move through their world.
As a puzzle-platformer, a lot of the gameplay is focused on problem solving; the puzzles in this game are clever, and genuinely require some thought – a few had me stumped for minutes on end. Aside from the main storyline, there are also many optional levels available to you that present extra, increasingly difficult puzzles for those gamers who love a true challenge.
Another clever aspect of the Unravel sequel is that it has introduced local co-op in the form of Yarny’s new companion. Normally I’m cautious of co-op games; I feel that it’s an aspect that is too often thrown last minute into development to sell underwhelming games where it just doesn’t make sense. I was overjoyed to find that this simply isn’t the case in Unravel 2 – the gameplay itself is designed with two things in mind: friendship, and cooperation. So whether you play by yourself or with a friend, the two adorable little yarnies will be helping each other out at every turn, with many of the obstacles they come up against only able to be beaten by working together. When playing by yourself, this means that you must consider your character’s positioning and actions very carefully, swapping between the two – when playing with a friend you must consider the same but with the added bonus of having to communicate with one another; something that lends itself to lots of frustrated yelling and laughter, as any good co-op should!
As I mentioned previously, the concepts of friendship and hope are woven deeply into the story of Unravel 2 – not just through the adventure of the two yarnies, but through the echoes of the humans they watch along the way. I won’t say anything more, except that I recommend you keep an eye on the background while you play so that you don’t miss any interactions that add yet another dimension to the game.
All in all, I’ve found that Unravel 2 is an utter delight. Though some are saying that it lacks an emotional punch, like the first game, I personally think that this is a good thing and that instead it allows the key themes to shine through in an emotionally gentle but intellectually challenging experience that not many other games can offer. In an increasingly crazy world (and perhaps particularly in an industry so saturated with blood splatters and violence) the adorably courageous little yarnies with their clever but never cruel gameplay and the frankly wholesome vibe that this game presents is, I think, something that every gamer should get the chance to enjoy.
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