This weekend I spent a few hours playing the new video game Unravel, developed by Coldwood Interactive. Although I didn’t come close to finishing it, I got a good sense of the early gameplay. It’s been awhile since I sat back on the couch to play a good puzzle platformer on a weekend morning, and I realize how much I miss it!
Three things stood out to me during my time with Unravel…
1. Yarny is Adorable
The first thing I noticed in this game is just how adorable the main character is. You play as a little red doll made of yarn — appropriately named Yarny — whose constitution dictates the gameplay. As he hops along on his journey, his yarn unravels until he runs out. There is yarn along the way that he can collect, but part of the challenge is figuring out how to get to that extra yarn before he runs out of his current supply.
Yarny is cute for the way he reacts to his environment. When he first peeks his head around the door of his house, he looks like he has butterflies about leaving home for the first time. As he walks across the porch to the garden, he seems hesitant. A butterfly makes him jump. Each time you pass a memory in the game — these are images of things that happened in the environments in the past, which Yarny comes across sort of as collectibles — he slows down to peer at the picture, obviously curious. When you reach the end of a level, he pumps his hand in the air in victory.
2. Everything is Very Pretty
Another thing I love is the overall look of the game. The scenery is beautiful in its simplicity. The first two levels have you exploring a home garden (including a dark shed) and a rocky beach where hungry crabs and a boardwalk add variety and challenge to the gameplay. On a side note, the music creates an overall atmosphere of calm in these places, even when things get hairy.
But I also think the HUD design is gorgeous. Yarny can create a lasso with his yarn and attach it to yarn anchors in the environment. Though they’re subtle enough to look appropriate in the environment (despite the fact that yarn on a tree branch doesn’t really make sense), they are also not too hard to spot. It’s not a hunt to find them; you spy them and get a feel for what you need to do next. Yarny can also tie knots to these anchors, and if he does this across two anchors, he’ll create a yarn bridge. These bridges — as well as anything else in the environment that Yarny can climb on — give off a faint, pretty glitter effect. It’s almost like they’re emanating motion, attracting you to them.
3. The Physics Feel Great
That leads me to the other thing I find great about the game: the physics. Unravel is a platformer that requires Yarny to lasso-and-swing his way from tree branch to tree branch, jump and climb onto ledges, pull objects across yarn bridges, and more. It’s a very active game. Puzzling out what to do next to proceed is kind of the point, but actually putting a plan into action requires careful timing. While there were many moments when my lack of timing caused Yarny to fall or falter, I always knew it was my fault. That’s the challenge, because really the game’s physics are set up with pinpoint accuracy, and motion feels very intuitive. I didn’t have trouble getting the hang of how to swing Yarny, for example, even if my lasso sometimes missed the next anchor.
I’m enjoying Unravel so far and will probably dive back into it next weekend. It’s the perfect game for a lazy Sunday morning.