When we were first introduced to Yarny and the new IP Unravel last year, it was a compelling peek at what could be a spotlight grabber in the same way Ori and the Blind Forest turned out to be. Unravel has finally arrived and it's an experience that tries very hard to be something special, but it falls short due to it just being too simple.
Unravel is one of the best looking platformers you'll see, as its photorealistic levels are absolutely stunning to behold. The game does a fantastic job of keeping the game's settings and visuals fresh by mixing up the types of environments gamers have to play through.
The first five levels of Unravel show more of the green, lush side of life we see in nature, and in these levels are obstacles you would find in their natural environments. Whether you are climbing a tree or cruising through the sea, Unravel looks beautiful. Textures are exquisitely done and the game runs at a very smooth frame rate from start to finish.
Halfway through, the game shifts its setting to more gritty and rugged locales that are drenched with rain, creating soggy and muddy ground for Yarny to walk through. Unravel's beauty shines the most during the rainy and snowy levels, and four of the final five levels take place during the winter, but at different times. Unravel is absolutely gorgeous and gamers will love the immersive sounds, visuals and environments they traverse through.
Unravel features an excellent soundtrack that embellishes the game's levels, and makes each situation you encounter feel more alive as a result. A more casual level would have a corresponding tone of music, while one that is fast and furious delivered a different sort of track.
There is an instance when gamers must run away from a hamster or guinea pig, and the song that plays during this sequence is by far my favorite of the entire game. It was fun to fail at getting away from the hamster a few times because that meant I had the opportunity to listen to the track again.
Music is often times an under appreciated aspect of a game, but in Unravel, it is nearly impossible not to appreciate it because of how central it is. There are no long, drawn-out cutscenes with voice-actors talking over the soundtrack in the background. The music is a primary source of storytelling in Unravel and Henrik Oja and Frida Johansson should be applauded for what they have created.
Where Unravel stumbles is in its core. Gameplay is fun and simple to grasp, but it really didn't do anything to challenge me. I was able to understand the various abilities and moves Yarny had during the first level, and from there on out it was smooth sailing. Level design was simple and not very challenging at all.
Unravel is a fun game for the first half, but then it all becomes repetitive, with little to no variation through the second half. There is an instance or two per level that makes the gameplay a touch different, like rolling a pinecone into a snowball or trying to escape a car that's about to be crushed, but it's not enough to make the gameplay feel challenging or different.
I know Coldwood wanted to tell a story that would touch the hearts of gamers, and in some respects they have, however, Unravel's narrative is too subtle and just isn't that impactful from start to finish. There is one cinematic at the beginning and another at the end, and even in those instances, not much story is being told.
Yarny as a character does not speak and so gamers aren't given any context from him (or her). Pictures are used as starting points to each level and they convey more subtlety about what happened during the level you are about to play through. However, it just feels like I know something is there but I'm missing the thing that will truly make me become invested in the story.
After you complete each level, Yarny picks up a yarn emblem and then returns it to a kitchen table. With each emblem collected comes a quote or saying about life, which I did truly enjoy reading. I then was able to flip through more pages in the story to see the images behind the quote. They are beautiful reminders of what's important in life, however, they just weren't enough to convey a meaningful story. It's just too basic and in some ways it is empty.
Coldwood did do a fine job of characterizing Yarny through his motions and actions. The fact that he doesn't speak automatically presents a set of problems that another developer might not have overcome, but Coldwood did with all of the other ways they were able to characterize Yarny. They didn't fail in making me feel for him because I really did. Things like a relived embrace after collecting an emblem or the cold, lonely trudge through a muddy rainstorm all helped me care about Yarny.
Over the course of my seven hours with the game, it was an enjoyable, simple and easy experience. Unravel doesn't do anything special with its gameplay or narrative, though it does have a magnificent soundtrack and stunning visuals. If you're a person who is a hardcore platforming fan, you will most likely be very underwhelmed with Unravel, but if you're looking for a fun, easy and light experience, then maybe this game is for you.
- Wonderful soundtrack
- Beautiful visuals
- Empty narrative
- Basic gameplay
EA provided Examiner.com with a PS4 code of Unravel for the purposes of this review.