It's so rare to see a game nowadays that has an original idea or, at the very least, is trying to say something to you.
Call of Duty, Battlefield, Battlefront, FIFA '16, endless amount of titles have become annualised and churned out to meet an ever-growing demand for games that are easy to pick up, easy to understand and easy to relate to. It's not to say that these games are any less entertaining or should be dismissed out of hand, but playing Unravel, it's clear that there hasn't been a game like this in quite a while. Maybe ever.
The setup for Unravel is bracingly simple. You are an anthropomorphic piece of yarn that travels through various memories of an elderly woman. The world you exist in is real, but because of your size, it all takes on a huge scale. You begin each level, which are memories pulled from photographs, with a certain amount of yarn that will get you to another ball of yarn that, in turn, lets you continue on. Because you're essentially a ball of yarn that can walk, you can use it to grapple up platforms, swing across chasms, even use it as a springboard if you knot it around pre-determined spots. The first level shows you the ropes (or yarns, sorry) and then you're on your own.
The simplest ideas are often the smartest and it's true here as well. Unravel works like a puzzle platformer, but the accoutrement of yarn that comes from your avatar makes it much more. You only have a certain amount of moves you can make before you run out of yarn or tie yourself up in a knot. Thankfully, the game has a simple reset function that puts you back to the start and allows you to try again. The story behind Unravel is what truly makes it more than just an engaging puzzle platformer. As you pull the piece of string across the gorgeously designed landscapes, you start to see glimmers and apparitions of the life lived; be it children playing on a beach or someone lying against a tree. The idea is that the further you move away from home, the weaker your avatar becomes. How many games nowadays would think to tell a story like that?
There is something very twee and innocent about Unravel, but so what? Games nowadays are so concerned with being morally ambiguous that it's becoming a joke. Playing something as sweet and carefree as this really reminds you of just how far it's strayed from the likes of The Ocarina of Time and The New Zealand Story. Again, that's not to say that more advanced, adult-orientated games are bad or lesser, but it's nice to have a palette cleanser like this. There are a few minor issues with Unravel, but it's not much. The puzzles do become a little repetitive and the twitchy controls are sometimes frustrating to play, but spaced out over twelve levels, there's enough variety to keep you entertained and interested. Unravel is a chilled-out, wonderfully emotive experience that rewards your time playing. Highly recommended.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Developer / Publisher: Coldwood Interactive / EA