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Unravel reveals the ties that bind

Feb 22, 2016

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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UnravelWe're not even two months into the year in gaming, and already we have an unforgettable hero named Yarny. He's the tiny protagonist of Unravel, which is a puzzle-platformer that adds some serious emotional weight to this genre's well-worn recipe.

On the surface Unravel may seem like yet another cookie-cutter platformer, but it doesn't take long to realize there's a lot more to this game.

The story of Unravel is seen through the eyes of Yarny, who traverses several levels in search of missing pieces from his elderly owner's photo album. There are no voices in the game, and the plot is explained through small snippets from the photo album as well as past memories that occasionally show up in the background of each level.

UnravelYarny is, in a word, adorable. When he first steps out the door of his owner's house, he becomes startled by a tiny and unassuming butterfly. And while he rarely loses that look of curiousity on his face, his determined gait makes it clear how focused he is on finishing his quest. He may be shorter than a Smurf (a couple of apples in the first level confirm that), but Yarny never backs down from a challenge.

And make no mistake - this game will challenge you. The "puzzle" aspect of this platformer offers up some real doozies. There's a neat mechanic in Unravel that has Yarny constantly needing to refill the yarn that his body is made up of. He can only go so far and use up so much of the stuff before he can no longer progress.

UnravelWhile it was rare that this actually hindered my progress, it added an extra layer of strategy to puzzles that were already pretty tricky. Interestingly, I got stuck more at the beginning of the game, when I wasn't familiar with all the things you can do with yarn whether it's swinging to a nearby attach point, creating a yarn trampoline, or dragging an object to help you cross a pond, for instance.

Later levels actually recycle a lot of earlier puzzles, though one section near the end of the game that takes place in a garage really falls flat. All that said, I mostly found the difficulty nearly perfect. Yes, I got stuck, but the solution was always in my grasp, and I never spent an inordinate amount of time in any one level.

UnravelThe brain-busters in Unravel are masterfully balanced with moments of sheer exhilaration, joy, and fear. One moment I was riding atop a bike, the next I was being chased by an angry gopher, and then I was leaping from rock pile to rock pile across chasms. Not all of the animals in the game were out to get me, including one particular bird that I helped escape from a trap. Unravel is clearly all about relationships, and bonds are constantly being created, giving Yarny a real sense of humanity.

Most of game's levels can be completed at a leisurely pace, and I guarantee you this is one title where you'll want to take the time to appreciate how it looks. Unravel is, quite simply, drop dead gorgeous.

UnravelEnvironments teem with life, and the attention to detail is stunning. Birds will peek out of birdhouses, and paths made in the snow will change in size depending on what objects Yarny may be pushing. Heck, you can even have Yarny play the piano if you feel so inclined.

The soundtrack, meanwhile, is as enjoyable to listen to as the game is to look at.

By the time you've found every missing photo album piece, I dare you to have not teared up at least once. Unravel doesn't hold back when it comes to emotion, and it uses Yarny to great success in that respect. Without him, there would be little connection to what the game has to offer.

He is the next great video game protagonist as far as I'm concerned, and because of him, Unravel is an undeniable success.

 

Unravel
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Coldwood Interactive
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://www.unravelgame.com/

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.