Tuesday 24 October 2017

Unravel review - A delightful yarn


Mark O'Beirne

Unravel tells a story of love and loss as Yarny explores wonderful landscapes, navigating his way through environments to find collectibles.


The opening moments of Unravel serve to get you in the right frame of mind for what is to come. "Lycka blommar ur sma enkla ting" is embroidered on a cushion as Yarny springs to life. Translating from Swedish, this says, "Happiness blooms from small simple things."

Unravel, at its core, is a delightfully simple game. Get Yarny, the adorable protagonist, from one point in a level to the next checkpoint. Along the way, there are secrets to be found - some of which are tantalisingly close, yet need some deft manoeuvring to access - and a core mechanic to deal with. As a figure made of yarn, you only have so much yarn at your disposal. This doesn't cause too many issues; sometimes you need to plot your course efficiently, while at other times you simply have to rescan the environment for that missed checkpoint.

But there's also a personal story being told. Unravel doesn't contain a traditional narrative with a typical endpoint, but instead looks at life and what it held for the owner of this photo album. Once you clear a chapter, you can look at the diary entry for that chapter and take a trip down memory lane in a series of photos. These entries cover a range of topics including the give-and-take of relationships, love, major events, and personal loss, among others.



Unravel is a visual treat, packed with stunning environments and clever little details; there are wonderful environmental and weather effects, little critters scurrying around the world, and Yarny is surprisingly expressive at times, cowering in the face of lightning strikes or admiring the landscape around him.

There is an achievement for getting through the entire game without dying, which seems like an unusual inclusion from the aesthetics and initial chapters. But the difficulty and danger ramps up significantly, particularly in some later stages.

Some of these challenges come down to knowing what you're supposed to do at a glance, reflexes, or luck, which can be frustrating. There were a couple of sections that almost undid all the good will we had built up. And let's just say that if Journey's snow section bothered you, you may be dismayed to hear that Unravel's world is hit by the same inclement weather conditions at one point. Thankfully, there's a whimsical section immediately afterwards, which offers some relief and catharsis.

For the most part, progress is quickly restored; if you miss a jump, you can simply reel yourself back in, while death results in a quick restart. But some checkpoints could be slightly closer together to bypass doing a test of reflexes multiple times.



You can blast through Unravel fairly quickly. But the real enjoyment comes from admiring the surrounding landscape, appreciating the little details, and pushing yourself to find or acquire those challenging secrets. There are also some delightful instances (and trophies) for those who are willing to experiment and see what's possible based on what they've learned throughout the game.

If you're the type of person who will consult Google Translate to see what the cushion says, you will get the most from Unravel. It's not packed with such secrets and gems, but it sets you up to enjoy and appreciate the little things. Some frustrating moments aside, Unravel is a wonderful and delightful game that tells a personal story in a different way.




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