Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 01/23/17

No meat on the bones

When Martin Sahlin appeared on stage during EA's E3 2015 press conference, his nervous unveiling of Unravel and its main character Yarny made him a popular figure. He clearly put a lot of heart and passion into Unravel, but sadly, the final product just isn't much of a compelling gaming experience.

Gameplay

Unravel is a puzzle-platformer in the vein of Limbo or Inside, but stripped down so that it is very plain and basic. Most of the puzzles in the game revolve around pushing and pulling objects, though players also tie their yarn to objects to create trampolines and swing over gaps like in Donkey Kong Country.

The yarn mechanic seems like a good idea on paper, but it doesn't translate to very interesting gameplay. Yarny's abilities are replicated in most platformers without the restrictive yarn mechanic, which often forces players to backtrack if they get stuck on an object or lose too much of their yarn.

This can be frustrating, but what is also frustrating is that the rules of the puzzles don't seem consistent. What I mean by this is that the game teaches players solutions that make sense on way, but then they don't apply to future puzzles. Each puzzle seems to have a very specific way to solve it, which feels restrictive and boils down to just trial-and-error gameplay, which isn't very compelling...especially when other games in the same genre are doing much more interesting things.

As a platformer, Unravel is unremarkable, but its biggest sin is its clunky controls. It seems to be based around the floaty platforming seen in LittleBigPlanet, but without the "float" part that makes that game's platforming tolerable. The result is a lot of missed jumps and Yarny falling to his death quite a bit.

Story

Unravel's main draw is its story. It creates a rather artsy story that is told through photographs with plenty of emotion injected into the proceedings. It has subtle storytelling, with some heartbreaking moments and some heartwarming ones.

10 years ago, Unravel may even be considered revolutionary for its approach to storytelling, but in today's gaming climate, it doesn't mean quite as much. Unravel's story is well made and much more engaging than the gameplay, but can also be skipped without players missing out on too much.

Graphics and Sound

Another area where Unravel excels is its presentation. The visual representation of Yarny is impressive most of the time, and it's cool to see Yarny lose and gain yarn as players progress through the levels. The stages are based on real world locations and are brought to life with stunning visuals, and there are times when the graphics in Unravel are undeniably impressive.

Unfortunately, there are some technical guffaws that keep Unravel's graphics from being perfect. Perhaps due to the complicated nature of Yarny losing and gaining yarn all the time, there are some weird glitches where Yarny's limbs will start shaking uncontrollably. Unravel builds an engrossing atmosphere with its visuals, but these glitches will pull players right out of it.

The music is perfect though, and the best part of the game. The soundtrack goes the distance when creating Unravel's atmosphere, and it's almost worth playing through some stages in the game just to listen to the soundtrack.

Play Time and Replayability

Unravel is a short experience that can be beaten in less than five hours. However, there is some replayability with secrets in the levels and things of that nature. I doubt many people will feel the urge to go back through and look for everything, though. It also doesn't help that some of the achievements are downright ridiculous, and that will probably keep players from trying to fully complete the game.

Final Recommendation

Diehard fans of the genre will probably come away from Unravel a little bit impressed, but others will find the controls annoying, the general gameplay mechanics largely unremarkable, and overall, disappointed by the experience. The story, graphics, and sound are all fantastic, but Unravel fails to deliver when it comes to the most important element of any video game: It doesn't have compelling gameplay to make the rest of it matter much.

Rating: 5

Product Release: Unravel (US, 02/09/16)

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