Unravel Review: Spin a Yarn-y

Ever since Electronic Arts unveiled Unravel at E3 2015, many players have been enamoured with its adorable hero, Yarny. Not much has been revealed of Unravel aside from some of the game’s early locales and a number of its physics-based puzzles, and that’s for good reason as the story the game tells spans a lifetime of memories, both good and bad. And just like real life, Unravel hopes you look back at your experience with fondness rather than regret. In a way, I got to experience both once I reached the end.

A Tale As Old As Time

Unravel tells the story of Yarny, a small crotched creation of an old woman. We don’t know anything about her at the start of the story, but as we progress through the game, we learn she’s lived a life filled with love, adventure, and conflict through the eyes of Yarny as he collects a number of lost trinkets. Yarny’s adventure will find it in a number of locales, many of which are outdoors and during different seasons. And just like both life and the seasons, his journey comes to an eventual end which even though I found to be obvious, still caused me to reflect on well after the last leaf fell.

The centerpiece of the Unravel experience is its incredibly-detailed world. Each season was well-represented as snow felt welcoming as Yarny created a small path through a few inches of precipitation, while rainy spring days looked bleak and intimidating. Yarny is about the size of an apple, so the world around it looks grandiose in comparison as vehicles look massive and indoor areas seem to go on forever at its level. Yarny is also quite detailed as he looks very well put together at first, but as his thread is left behind, I began to see just how fragile he really was, even ceasing to go further if I didn’t collect more at designated checkpoints. Each checkpoint allowed Yarny to extend his adventure until he needed an additional spool of yarn, which I found to be a helpful mechanic due to often succumbing to Unravel’s harsh environments..

Pull The String

At its core, Unravel is a sidescrolling physics-based game similar to the likes of the LittleBigPlanet series. I successfully guided Yarny through a number of obstacles, which ranged from being chased by random wild animals to figuring out how to power a bulldozer to navigate a small branch through a reservoir without drowning. Yes, apparently yarn can drown, so remember that if you ever drop your scarf into a puddle.

While each level was littered with obstacles to overcome, I felt the variety was a bit lacking as the majority of them fell into three categories: puzzles that required me to use yarn to jump to an inaccessible location, roll a piece of garbage somewhere to jump to an inaccessible location, or swing myself around to land in an inaccessible location. From time to time, Unravel would throw a puzzle that required a bit more thought, such as one where I had to fill a small reservoir with water by pulling on a lever in order to pass which also required me to jump on a branch as it slowly floats away. I’ll save you from hearing the long-winded solution, but I spent at least a half-hour attempting to figure out how to proceed.

No Strings Attached

Unravel's strengths lie more in its heart-warming story than offering compelling gameplay. Even though there are some thought-provoking puzzles, they’re few and far between. There’s no doubt Yarny is quite the adorable little mascot who has good intentions, but a video game can’t succeed on good intentions alone.

This review is based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Unravel will be available in digital stores on February 9, 2016, for $19.99. The game is rated E.

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  • Heart-warming story
  • Immersive environments
  • Physics-based gameplay
  • Lack of puzzle variety
  • Telegraphed story elements
  • Spiking difficulty