For years, Flower has been the game that I’ve shown friends and family when I want to prove to them that gaming isn’t all about shooting aliens and screaming at strangers over the Internet. Flower is beautiful, tranquil and meaningful, but after all these years, I think a new game has finally taken its place.
That game is Unravel.
Originally unveiled at EA’s E3 press conference last year, Unravel is a puzzle platformer from Coldwood Interactive most easily compared to another indie smash hit, Limbo. But unlike its melancholy predecessor, Unravel is filled with bright lights and vibrant colors, drawing the player in with one of the most gorgeous virtual worlds of the generation.
Unravel is the story of a small creature made of yarn (appropriately named Yarny) who refuses to let the memories of a forgotten family fade away. In order to make sure of it, he has to swing, jump and climb his way through various treacherous environments and collect the mementos they left behind.
Thankfully, being made of yarn has its advantages. In order to make his way over large chasms or bodies of water, Yarny can simply swing across, like a mini-Indiana Jones. When there’s a wall or a fence too high to clamber over, Yarny can make a bridge between two points which doubles as trampoline.
Many of the puzzles have relatively linear solutions, but nearly every level has at least one complex puzzle that requires a careful surveying of the room and multiple trips back and forth across the screen. Sometimes you’ll need to wrap yourself around a certain point in order to get leverage on a lever, other times you’ll need to build bridges to drag an object to a higher shelf.
Unravel constantly surprises the player, but no puzzle ever had me scratching my head for longer than a few minutes before I stumbled upon a solution. The most challenging puzzles were challenging enough, but not nearly as inscrutable as the most difficult puzzles in The Witness.
And it’s a good thing that the game keeps up at such a brisk pace, because once I started exploring this world, I didn’t want to stop. Between the almost photorealistic environments, the stirring original soundtrack and flawless animation, I felt like I was trapped inside of a Pixar movie. And a great Pixar movie at that.
If I had to nitpick, I’d say that the controls could be a bit fidgety at times. The physics of the game are exceptionally well done for the most part, but there were certainly moments when I felt the game was working against me. Never enough to make me want to toss my controller, but enough to cause momentary frustration.
After seeing creative director Martin Sahlin introduce the game on stage last year, I had high hopes for Unravel, but I couldn’t have imagined it’d turn out as well as it did. It’s only February, but it’s already a great year for fans of beautiful, meaningful puzzlers.
EA provided BGR with a copy of Unravel on the PlayStation 4 for the purposes of this review.