Thursday 22 March 2018

Unravel review: No strings attached

Unravel (XOne/PS4/PC); rating: 7/10; Age: 7+

Unravel: watch out for natural hazards
Unravel: watch out for natural hazards
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

MEGAPUBLISHER EA has hitherto ignored the burgeoning indie scene but Unravel is visibly the child of a tiny studio instead of the property of the global giant.

From Swedish developer Coldwood (most known for so-so PlayStation Move title The Fight), Unravel was picked up by EA early in its development and made quite a splash at E3 2015.

Unravel: Swinging like Tarzan
Unravel: Swinging like Tarzan

A gentle platformer underpinned by musings on life and lost memories, Unravel follows the adventures of an anthropomorphic ball of wool named Yarny. The gentle ambiance stands in stark contrast to the bombast of EA’s usual fare.

Despite the whiff of design by committee (cuteness overload, pastoral scenery, lots of acoustic guitar on the soundtrack), this digital-only effort hopefully marks a diversification of portfolio for EA.

The immediate goal isn’t clear but Yarny traverses the landscape from left to right, with the idea that his movement is both limited and enabled by his stock of yarn. The ball is anchored to the beginning of the level and must be replenished at regular intervals from little abandoned piles.

Cleverly, the yarn acts variously as rope, grappling hook and leash, with Yarny’s body thinning as he runs out of material.

After completing a level or two, it becomes clearer that you’re restoring a person’s lost memories by collecting objects. To say any more would be stunt the player’s enjoyment. Suffice to say, there’s scant progression to the narrative but you may fill in the blanks with your own interpretation.

Some puzzles revolve around swinging Tarzan-like through the trees, others involve pulling and pushing objects to facilitate your progress. On fewer occasions still, Unravel comes up more interesting conundrums such as the one involving a pulley system. As charming as the journey is, Unravel fails to make enough of its tethering mechanics to be truly captivating.

Yet it’s hard to be harsh on something so restful, so bucolicly de-stressing. Unravel is just pure fun, no strings attached.

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