released OUT NOW! Publisher EA
Reviewed on PS4
Also on PC, Xbox One
Unravel isn’t the cloying slice of indie whimsy you were expecting. It occasionally lapses into treacly sentimentality, but there’s an edge to this picturesque puzzle- platformer from developer Coldwood. It’s there in knitted protagonist Yarny, who sits in the intersection of the creepy/ cute Venn diagram alongside the Moomins. It’s most obvious, however, in the myriad ways he can meet his end.
Unravel has a lot in common with the brutal Limbo – though it’s not quite as dark and violent. You’ll break branches to float across water and weigh down see- saws to create ramps. There’s even a hair- raising setpiece in which you must escape a pursuing creature. And you’ll regularly find yourself dangling from ropes, shifting your weight back and forth to generate enough momentum to carry you across yawning gaps.
The key difference is that you’re supplying your own threads, with Yarny attaching himself to loops of red wool. This can be a temporary measure, or you can tether yourself more thoroughly. Binding two nearby loops will often create a trampoline, and they double as makeshift bridges, allowing you to ferry moveable items towards platforms beyond Yarny’s reach.
It’s when it mixes things up that Unravel most delights. Most of its puzzles are satisfying to solve, given the total absence of hints and visual cues. Sure, it’s hardly string theory, but even when the solutions are more obvious the game frequently compensates with visual wit and invention.
If its narrative sometimes leans towards the predictable, it comes across as heartfelt rather than manipulative. Unravel isn’t always as sure- footed as it might be, but there’s an unfakeable sincerity of feeling behind its message. Chris Schilling
There’s an unfakeable sincerity of feeling
Seconds later he was eaten by moths.