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
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.