Hear me moan,
Since E3 I’ve been excited for Unravel. It seemed as if Yarny was going to be the next mascot to stand in the way of Mario and Master Chief. The game looked to have an interesting game mechanic, one that would be used to combat a series of physic-based puzzles.
Since then Unravel has launched. I’ve bought it, finished it and complained about it. If you haven’t listened to Episode 9 of Out of the Xfire Podcast I recommend you do – you will hear everything I have to say about my experience with Unravel.
I don’t want to repeat myself as I’ve already elaborated enough on the podcast but I want to return to the subject of Unravel in order to complete the grieving process. I’ve deleted it, so there’s a start, and hopefully by venting a little more I can eventually get over it.
MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!
I wasn’t expecting a Hollywood blockbuster story from Unravel but I was at least hoping for extra layers that would become apparent upon knowing the final twist – that way, replaying the game would make things you ignored the first time round seem more significant. Unfortunately the final twist doesn’t exist and it’s difficult to grasp what kind of metaphor Yarny is supposed to represent.
At face value Yarny represents aging, death and futility; as you move along each stage Yarny unravels, eventually becoming a wire skeleton once you run out of yarn and preventing you from getting any further. I was hoping this symbolism would rear its head in the story too but it never did.
The story is as simple as this: A red yarn ball falls from an old lady’s basket. It’s assumed the yarn ball becomes Yarny (it’s never explained how or why). Yarny ventures through environments collecting memories and trophies made of yarn. Yarny eventually turn grey and decays. A hand, assumed to be the old lady’s, picks Yarny back up and ‘resurrects’ him. Yarny uses the memories as anchor points to swing his way back to the old lady’s house. When Yarny enters through the window a young girl comes into the room. Yarny instantly becomes inanimate just like the toys from Toy Story.
What the fuck am I supposed to take away from all of this? Is Yarny a toy possessed by a ghost? Has Yarny literally been travelling across fields and construction sites collecting mementos? If Yarny is alive are all arts and crafts alive as well?
Unappreciated Game Mechanic
Arguably it doesn’t matter if the story is total shit. It’s obviously been built around the premise of being made of yarn and using yourself to navigate the world and solve puzzles. It’s a nice idea that Yarny is connecting Point A to Point B to form a comprehensive memory but even the central game mechanic is unappreciated.
The least you can do is hang from anchor points to climb back up a platform you have fallen from, and at most you can connect two anchor points together to form a trampoline. The majority of the game is swinging from one anchor point to the next or making trampolines to jump over high objects.
Most puzzles are solved by pulling certain anchor points at specific times or by tying two anchor points together to keep some kind of barrier or lever down – and that’s pretty much it.
It’s no lie that I struggled with the first 3 levels but after those the rest of Unravel is a walk through the park/mountains/graveyard. It’s as if all the imaginative, creative puzzles were shoehorned into the first third of the game.
Unravel does this beautiful thing where the background is blurred. Everything is ginormous compared to Yarny and it creates the sensation of cosy dwarfism; you feel small but the large world feels close. It’s obvious that the blurred background cannot be interacted with.
To add even more depth there are non-blurred objects. These are things that are obviously closer to Yarny and are decorative pieces that add context to the anchor points and puzzles. They are a total mind fuck though because it’s not obvious if they’re solid objects that can be used or if they’re just background noise.
It’s terrible by design because you never know what can be used until you’ve attempted jumping at it. It’s at its worse in levels that feature water. Yarny cannot swim so bottles and shit need to be placed in the water to act as stepping stones – there is one level where a big oil barrel is floating in the water and can you land on it? Of course you fucking can’t!
Want to retaliate? Post a comment. I lament once a week but you can follow me on Twitter @LeeLaments where I moan every day. Also listen to the Out of the Xfire Podcast to witness me make harsh judgements about PlayStation.