In 2016, Unravel won E3 viewers over through both its adorable protagonist and charmingly nervous developer showing the game off. Well, in a move I’m not sure anyone predicted, a sequel was both announced and released this past E3. Can Yarny capture our hearts once again? Well, in a word; yes. This is a brilliantly put together game, with almost zero filler or padding to fit the old adage that a sequel must be more. Everything from the beautifully realized visuals to the haunting, melancholy soundtrack just feels right.
Whether you’re fleeing a forest fire or scaling an industrial worksite, there’s almost a Playdead-esque commitment to keeping levels briskly paced and flowing. Controls are tight, with a nice amount of give in the jump for corrections in mid-air. Physics-based puzzles work great too, giving you enough slack to make mistakes, but never getting in the way of a solution. In reality, these puzzles are not too taxing, and by the end of the game some ideas are repeated with a level appropriate re-skin, but they are quick enough to not drag the game down.
The biggest change comes in the form of two player co-op. From the off, Yarny finds a knitted companion, and they are tethered together for the duration. Gone is the need to reach a new point to replenish your yarn, replaced with the two characters sharing a supply that prevents them from straying too far from each other. What could have been a frustrating mechanic however is worked brilliantly into the level design, with various parts requiring the two to co-operate to traverse.
Get a couple of half way competent gamers together, and you can see some elegant looking swinging and jumping as they blast through levels in a smooth flow. Playing with a lesser experienced person? Coldwood have thought of that too. My eldest daughter is 5, and was obsessed with Unravel when it came out (watching our very own UrbanFungus play was a nice break from Paw Patrol). As soon as she saw me playing, she asked to have a go. I’d show her how to get through a section and encourage her to try, but if it was too tricky, no worries.
Holding LT allows the other person to climb the yarn freely, meaning that I could simply pull her up if she was stuck and we could continue, while letting her feel a part of the action. Or you can hold Y to give them a piggy back if it’s easier. Once again, the design is in aid of helping you through rather than halting your progress or repeating sections. Enemies do feature, but are few and far between, mostly appearing in brief chase sequences. Bigger enemies, such the one in the E3 demo, bring a nice change of pace to the levels, putting your skills to the test.
Checkpoints are generous too, never losing you more than a few seconds of progress. More perhaps could have been made of the two character physics, by using the yarn to wind something up or carry an object between you for example, but in general the system works really well. Like the original, storytelling is done through background detail, with short snippets featuring some children apparently hiding from either parents or some authoritarian figures. As you progress, you follow these kids as they run and cause trouble.
It’s never explicitly explained what is happening however, so I won’t go in to my interpretation further as I think different people will have different takes on what is happening, but despite never hearing a word it left an impact on me for sure. The main game only has 7 short levels, but these are bolstered by about 20 optional challenge rooms, with the aim being to rescue another yarn figure to unlock customization options for your characters. There’s a good variety, as well as multiple colors to choose from, allowing for a little personalization.
There are also a couple of optional objectives on the 7 levels, such as time trials which could stretch the amount you get out of the game. While short, clocking in at around 2-3 hours, Unravel Two does everything with such charm that it’s hard not to be completely enamored by the end. Stunning music perfectly compliments brilliantly rendered levels, really giving off the vibe that you are a small yarn creature running through a big, scary world. Ambiguous as the story is, there’s still enough of it to get under your skin.
Unravel Two does everything with such charm that it’s hard not to be completely enamored by its end. The stunning soundtrack compliments its brilliantly rendered levels, really giving off the vibe that you’re running through a big, scary world. A few more variations in its puzzle design would have elevated this higher, especially later in the game, but as it stands, any fan of puzzle-platformers should certainly experience this journey.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.