Unravel is a game about love. The yarn representing the bonds between people. So describes this little adventure according to Coldwood Interactive and Creative Director Martin Sahlin. Over the course of 10 stages you'll be told that story not through spoken words or exhaustive exposition, but instead through a beautiful score and and a trail of clues inferred through the environment and a set of expertly taken photos.
The world of Unravel is one that should look strikingly familiar. From the first step out the door there is a wonderful play on scale in which Yarny is this small little creature moving through a zoomed in version of our own world. Even the simplest of objects like a broken branch or a small puddle can become a huge obstacle that you'll have to use your wits and logical reasoning to overcome. Each stage has a unique theme and visual flair that is lovingly crafted and exquisitely detailed. Snow glimmers in the sunlight and crunches lightly as tiny Yarny moves through it. Wood is covered in patches of moss or mushrooms and is so realistically textured I felt like I could reach out and grab it. Even the way Yarny reacts to the world around him helps sell both the world and Yarny himself who is so surprisingly expressive for a character that doesn't speak at all. Just through the reactive animations you'll know when Yarny is curious, cold, wet or scared. After a few hours with him you won't be able to help being taken by his charm.
All of the wonderful presentation in the game would be for naught if the gameplay systems didn't deliver. Luckily I found myself engaged with the environmental and platforming puzzles more often than not. Using Yarny's abilities you can lasso and climb to select areas, push and pull a variety of objects and tie off multiple connecting points to create bridges you can walk across or use to bounce high into the air. The way in which these puzzles play out in the environment is usually pretty simple but will at times play with logic and the timing of your actions in a way that was rewarding throughout. New layers and unique combinations of these puzzles are presented across each stage and even bring objects in the environment into play in unique ways right up until the end. While nothing in Unravel left me stumped there is certainly some challenge to be had in putting everything together in the right order at times. Especially in sections where you can potentially run out of yarn trying to get to your next checkpoint. I had one instance where I did something out of order in a way that wouldn't let me progress and had to restart but otherwise had no issues in solving most things pretty quickly.
Unravel is a single player game only. There's no co-op or challenge modes present outside of the main game so unless you're a completionist and didn't get all of the collectibles the first time through there's not a ton of reason to go back once you've finished the story. That said I found the game to be a little bit longer than I initially thought it might be and managed to get through it and find a little over half of the collectibles in about 6-7 hours with each stage taking usually just a little more than a half hour to get through. It can certainly be done quicker than that but I spent a reasonable amount of time poking and prodding for hidden areas and collectibles.
All said, Unravel is a wonderful experience that is definitely worth the time put into it. It's as gorgeous to look at as it is to listen to. From nostalgic and melancholy to spirited and uplifting the score and visuals provide an emotional context in a way that sheds any need of dialogue. Yarny helps tie it all together with his reactive character design that had me wishing for just a little more time with him. I think perhaps I might make a trip to the craft store to pick up a ball of red yarn.