Unravel by Coldwood Interactive was a huge surprise for me. While the hype was certainly a contributing factor, what grabbed me and led me to download the EA Access 10 hour trial was the simplistic beauty I had seen in gameplay trailers. If you take one thing away from this first impression, let it be that this game is gorgeous. Strangely, I found myself absorbed by Unravel to a similar degree as full priced triple-A titles, despite stylized sidescrollers being one of my least played genres.
For the trial (and I imagine the full version of the game), you start out watching an extended version of the story trailer cutscene before being introduced to Yarny, an adorable anthropomorphic creature made of red yarn. You navigate Yarny around the old lady from the trailer’s house and garden, searching for memories to uncover pictures in her photo album. As you explore the tranquil areas you are presented with puzzles and obstacles that, while simple, make for an entertaining experience. The platforming and controls tread the perfect balance between frustrating and rewarding, where jumps and maneuvers move fluidly but can take a few seconds of thought. The game handles obstacles creatively, with Yarny using his tail of yarn to tie bridge gaps or slingshot himself over steps and branches. Not quite photo-realistic, the aesthetic based on the Swedish countryside is breathtaking, especially considering the size of the studio. The attention to detail, from how the grass and delicate autumn leaves move, to the colour palate, I found I often didn’t mind failing a jump or two so I could see a few more seconds of the stunning background.
Despite minimalist storytelling and very basic mechanics, Unravel provides an incredibly emotive experience, which is enhanced by a soothing score and subtle sound design. I cannot comment on how much content you get with the whole game, but even the small section that was available to me piqued my interest enough that I will be grabbing the full game after payday. I haven’t had a chance to play much of the recent crop of artsy titles available on the Xbox One, like Ori and the Blind Forest, but I have to say that if they are all as beautiful and subtle as Unravel, I will be checking more of them out.