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Tired of testosterone-saturated shooters? Don’t have room on your plate for another sprawling open world? Well, how about a game where you take a painfully cute yarn man on a stroll through the charming Swedish countryside? Get ready for a handcrafted change of pace.
Unravel is a unique ball of yarn. The game is the creation of a small Swedish developer and has a very personal feel, but it’s also being distributed by mega-publisher EA and clearly benefited from a pretty substantial budget. Unravel is part indie and part triple-A, but is it actually good? Let’s find out…
Unravel (PC, Xbox One & PS4)
In Unravel you play as Yarny, an adorable woolen boy who springs forth from an old woman’s knitting basket. According to Unravel developer Coldwood Interactive, the strands that make up Yarny represent love and the bonds that tie us together, although the game itself doesn’t hit you over the head with its message. In practice, the old lady’s house serves as a hub world of sorts, with you entering stages through scattered photographs. Each stage is based on a period from the woman’s life, and as you play through them you’ll encounter her memories, represented by ghostly images. The storytelling is light and ephemeral, but as you play through the game, a narrative of sorts begins to emerge. Early on the game serves up nostalgic images, before moving into some darker, angrier places then, finally, tackling themes of isolation and death. Mirroring these themes, early levels are lush and sun-dappled, the middle of the game takes place in a grimy toxic waste dump and the final levels are wintery and stark. Unravel is more concerned with tinkering with your emotions than telling a super cohesive story, and it does a pretty good job of it.
If I were you, I’d just stay on that porch, Yarny.
Unravel is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played, full stop. At times, the game’s backgrounds look nearly photorealistic, although they’ve also been sprinkled with a good amount of fairy dust. Real-life nature rarely looks quite this pretty. Yarny himself is also a wonderful creation – he’s packed with personality and charm even though a couple of blank woolen eyes are all he has for a face.
As much as I enjoyed Unravel‘s visuals, I may have loved its music even more. The fiddle-heavy soundtrack delivers that special brand of cold-hearted melancholy only good Nordic folk music can. Every track is perfectly suited to its respective stage, and will force even the most dead inside feel feelings about the adventures of a tiny red yarn man.