Feb 222016
 

Status: Completed, all secrets found

Most Intriguing Idea: Yarny’s principal handicap is also a key to its mobility

Best Design Decision: The versatile knotting mechanic.

Worst Design Decision: That field with the birds oh my god

Summary:

Ever since one of its designers showed up to E3 with a little yarn doll much of the gaming world has been awaiting Yarny, although some writers fervently wished for the little character Yarny to burn in hell. I occasionally shared the sentiment as I was playing. One problem I often had was being unable to tell that an object on the screen was something Yarny could push and not part of the gorgeous, lush backgrounds. I also sometimes had trouble telling whether I was on the right track to solving a puzzle and just missing a jump or whether I was trying something entirely wrongheaded and thus dying. A more obvious mistake occurs in the field with the birds, which felt like an exercise in praying to the RNG to pause spawning swooping birds long enough to let me cross. None of this was all that terrible or even unusual for the sort of pedestrian puzzle-platformer Unravel is, but the difficulty, inscrutability, and Limbo-style surprise deaths seemed at odds with the cute, inviting aesthetic.

That aesthetic, though, is sort of all over the place. The little yarn creature runs through the levels, but the end goal here is to restore photographs for some reason. The extended tour of a toxic waste site and a car dump also seem a little off relative to the game’s better, more naturalistic areas.

None of this makes Unravel a bad game, and I really enjoyed the permutations of what could be done with Yarny’s tether by knotting things cleverly. I also really liked the final level, although it came just up to the line of copying Journey too precisely. Still, I think on balance the game is probably a bit too frustrating for the audience its aesthetics will attract.

Verdict: Cautiously recommended.

  2 Responses to “Unravel”

  1. I was having a short conversation on The Jimquisition page with someone about how it’ll be interesting if EA allow this game to get a sequel where it improves on it’s faults. Do you think it’s that sort of game that has enough redeeming features that a chance at a sequel is worth the attempt?

    I think that’s an interesting question in itself of most games, but unfortunately most games are ruled by the closed fist of corporates.

  2. I would certainly say that Coldwood deserves another shot at this. The flaws here aren’t terrible and only stand out to me because they create difficulty spikes that work against the overall aesthetic. The game is gorgeous and fills a niche that EA currently doesn’t do much to address, so unless it’s a terrible economic failure then I think EA might bankroll another… sort of analogous to big movie studios making artsy, minimally-profitable “prestige project” dramas to support the contention that they make actual art and not just baysplosions.

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