June 22, 2018

Unravel Two - Review

Shadow dropping a new game is always a risky move, there is no build up, no chance for people to get excited, but that is what Coldwood Studios and Electronic Arts did with Unravel Two, but was it a bold move?

Unravel Two continues the story of Yarny, the little creature made from red yarn, but unlike the first, where the game started off light and got darker, before getting light again, Unravel Two starts out at its darkest and slowly builds towards the light. Yarny is on a boat, that is caught in some severe weather and finds himself getting thrown overboard and whilst trying to use his thread to pull himself back aboard, it snaps and he is washed away. Soon he wakes up on land and immediately meets up with a blue Yarny, who I shall now call Yarnold and both of them have looses threads, but when they meet, the threads combine and the two become woven together.

At its core, Unravel Two is a story about loss, but more than that, it is about finding light in the darkness and no matter what might be happening, there is always someone there to support you. It is a strong message to be sure, but the game actually tells another story in the background, literally, while you play through the main story line, another story plays out in the background of the same levels and while no words are spoken, it is another strong message, about working together. The problem is with both stories, there is no clear explanation on what causes things to happen, or when they end, what was going on, its all up to your interpretation of what you are being shown.

One part where the game requires almost no explanation is in the gameplay, the experience from the first game, to the second is much more refined and provides a tighter experience across the board, but just none more so in the platforming. The game is first and foremost a platformer, with the occasional puzzle thrown in, which helps to break up the just running and jumping of the platforming parts. When you get to a puzzle, sometimes the solution is obvious, sometimes it is not, the good news, is that you can try again and again, as often as you want, in almost all puzzles, as there are no time constraints and only a few have danger about them.

Much like in the first game, you can swing yourself around, if you tie your thread to a point, but now, with the addition of Yarnold, you can do it from anywhere as well. As long as one character remains up high, the other character can lower themselves down and begin the process of swinging around, in fact there are a few times when you need to do that in concert, swapping back and forth between the two, in order to progress. Of course, if you play the game with a friend, you will each take control of one character each and then you need to work together to proceed, it is these parts, where you need to have the two characters working together, where the game shines the best.

Some puzzles will require you to stand in specific places, but as the thread that connects the two, is not limitless, there is a little trial and error, when trying to get both characters to the right spot. There are a few puzzles that require use of other items, to help you launch your self up, or getting to another ledge, these are fun and there is one in particular that requires some creative thinking to complete. The reason that you would want to make sure you master the skills, is that each stage has a number of extra sparks floating around, they are not hidden per say, but they do unlock more options after the game ends, also allows you to replay levels, once you have mastered some of the mode advanced moves.

The problem with the game though, is that it is short, even failing a number of times in a certain hot level, I beat the main game in just under 3 hours, which is crazy. While there are plenty of challenge stages to enjoy and as I said before, you can replay the levels to collect everything, the challenge stages can ramp up in difficulty quite quickly, the result being that you will likely stop playing them. I don’t want you to think that a short game is a bad thing, far from it, the problem is that while the game is short, combine it with the less than clear stories and the resulting feeling is one of just huh, rather than anything else. For my time with the game, by the time I was done, I did not feel any sense of accomplishment or such, just thinking, its over and then I moved on.

One aspect of the game, that I can get behind I the presentation, it blends more photo realistic looking spaces, with a heck of a lot of charm, something that many games fail to achieve, but Yarny and Yarnold sadly, don’t mix in so well. Walking through the wooded areas, there is plenty to see, lots of depth, light rays shining through the branches and such, it really is a sight, the problem is Yarny looks more plastic than anything, when you place him in front of things and pull the camera back. The times when the camera gets close to Yarny and Yarnold, you can see all the little fibres sticking out from them and they look right, but when the camera pulls back, they look wax-like and it’s strange.

The audio design however, is one I can get behind 100%, the score is a mix of quite and calm beats, but suitably ramps up, whenever the action does, but thankfully, it does not sound like its from another game, the themes still play through. A lot of the music comes from a Violin, which is strange to think of as the lead instrument, but when you are stuck, trying to work out a puzzle, having a nice soothing track behind the game, just playing softly, is a treat. There are no vocal performances here and I think that is another notch in the games favour, everything you see from the characters is conveyed via expressions and it works.

Unravel Two fixes a lot of the issues that people had with the first, namely tightening up the gameplay and adding a little more depth to it. The story, whilst starting out dark does get lighter as you progress and actually helps that the more you play, the happier you will feel and while the presentation is hard to knock a few issues with the characters cause a blemish upon, what is truly a great game, even if it’s short.

Review code supplied by EA Games

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