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Review: Unravel

Unravel is a beautiful game, but does it’s gameplay live up to it’s graphics?

Whether it’s swinging across tree branches, riding kites or rolling up snowballs Unravel has a unique charm to it. Throughout the 6 – 9 hour story I found myself resonating with the main protagonist ‘Yarny’ feeling his emotion throughout contained in memories both good and bad.

Yarny is significantly smaller than the world around him, something carefully realised in the environment and level design which focuses you on the immediate world around him – or at his height. He is entirely made of wool as he weaves his way throughout this adventure and his movements come off very believable as he struggles to push and pull objects, leap away from danger and shudders in the cold.

What begins as a nostalgia trip quickly becomes darker and more perilous as puzzles become more complex.  In terms of gameplay it is a fairly standard platformer with puzzle elements. Yarny navigates the world by running and swinging from place to place using his string as a lasso. You have to be careful though as Yarny only has so much wool and sometimes running out will result in having to retrace your steps or even start again. You can even create walkways and  bungees to boost yourself up to higher areas, helping navigate the tricky terrain.

Yarny uses his skills to create a walkway – one of many navigation techniques

Unravel’s puzzle sections have extensive use of the environment and will see you moving various objects and connecting them in certain orders to achieve your objective and progress. Many of these puzzles are quite fun and thought provoking to figure out so you’ll certainly be entertained in that aspect. There aren’t however many different ways to approach puzzles, making them quite linear which won’t satisfy more veteran players of the genre.

Yarny may have various abilities to tackle the environment  around him he has no combat moves at all so when encountering enemies he must use skill and cunning to avoid them and it was this that proved to be some of the most frustrating parts of the game. Timing his run to safety just right to hide behind a rock from a group of crows can take a few tries but thankfully the game reloads reasonably quickly. These parts of the game do however taint the experience and when it comes to platforming – this is Unravels weakest aspect.

Yarny avoids the perils of the crows

As you move through the game you will see the game become darker as the beauty of nature is stripped away and replaced by industrialised zones and toxic chemicals. There is a huge shift in tone at this point. I remember dancing in a puddle happily for a few seconds only to have a car rush over Yarny, startling him and me in the process. Theres a clear message in this game but I won’t spoil it too much for you. This is where the game starts to become challenging though with puzzles becoming more complex in darker, harder to navigate areas. I’m not sure if the developers wanted you to feel Yarny’s struggles in these parts of the game but they certainly became a bit too fiddly and frustrating leading to many repetitive deaths.

At the end of my journey with Yarny I felt emotions both happy and sad, the story is a beautiful one, conveyed in the simplest of forms with the player realising that our memories that we experience shape us through times of sadness, anger, love and happiness and that all these memories are connected. The game also has a very beautiful nuanced soundtrack to accompany it which perfectly conveys the highs and lows felt during the course of the game.

Yarny has a heartfelt moment

The game is a journey, an emotional one. Where it’s gameplay falters Yarny’s likability and charm accompanied by a stellar soundtrack and superb environment detail shines through. The latter half of the game may frustrate you and show the games flaws a little more than you would like but the compelling nature of the game is sure to see you though right up until the credits roll.

Unravel is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

For more information about unravel check out the official website here.

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