Saturday 20 October 2018

Unravel Two review: Pulling strings is better in twos

Unravel Two (XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 7+

Unravel 2
Unravel 2
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Hanging by a thread encapsulates the theme and gameplay of this sequel to the charming but slight indie platformer by Swedish studio Coldwood from 2016. Released on the same day it was announced at EA's pre-E3 event last month, Unravel Two springs from a similar well as the original, as a woolly character named Yarny overcomes obstacles in a natural environment.

But as the title hints, the twist here relates to the pairing of a second anthropomorphised ball of yarn to assist in traversing the landscape. The duo rely on each to act as swings, levers and counterweights for their high-wire acts, setting up a game of cooperation requiring two players to communicate effectively in terms of timing and puzzle-solving.

It's possible to complete Unravel Two entirely in solo mode by switching between characters, but it feels unsatisfactory, as if something's missing. Coldwood built U2 with couch co-op in mind, envisioning an adult helping a younger gamer, or two friends looking for an undemanding challenge while they chat. In that mode, the sequel achieves what the original struggled to do: hold the interest beyond the novelty of its set-up. More complex puzzles and a greater degree of interaction introduce some welcome variety.

Occasional difficulty spikes, particularly towards the end of U2's short running time, can fray your temper until you're fit to be tied. But you're bound to enjoy this beguiling little yarn if you have someone to play with in a close-knit community.

Jurassic World Evolution

(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★ Age: 12+

Needs more Jeff Goldblum. While pretty much every film project can also be summed up thus, theme park simulator Evolution is in particular need of a lot more of the 65-year-old American's dulcet tones.

Goldblum acts as a hands-off guide to your dino empire, in which you research DNA to bring the giant lizards back to life and then create a Jurassic World-style park to house them. But so little is explained that, at least initially, you're left fumbling with the interface and floundering as to how to meet certain goals. This steep on-ramp could have been smoothed with extra Goldblum and fewer distracting tasks that can't even be completed until much later in the game.

That said, there's a perverse pleasure in constructing a convoluted playground of labs, monorails, enclosures, shops and hotels, knowing full well that nature will out eventually. Inevitably, the dinos escape and run riot, and that's when Evolution moves up a gear, forcing you to prioritise your responses and lifting the game from its repetitive torpor.

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