The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Video game review: Unravel


A cute, cuddly protagonist is the main boast of video game Unravel, carrying it through despite plot blips.
By Jordan Ryder

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Evidently making short, pretty, and emotionally charged platform games is the recipe for instant success in the video-game world. Last year’s Ori and the Blind Forest sparked my suspicion, and Unravel confirmed it for me this week. Give me an adorable protagonist to protect, and I’m all over it.

Unravel is about Yarny, a man-cat-thing made entirely of yarn, journeying through a family’s past. Literally jumping into pictures allows the player to relive the memories, trying to reconnect its members after they’ve drifted apart over the years. It’s a basic puzzle-platform title, the twist being that every movement leaves a trail of yarn behind. If players do not operate efficiently, they will run out of yarn and be unable to move to complete the journey.

Being made of yarn does have advantages, though. (Who would have guessed?) Yarny can lasso objects, either pulling them or using them to swing across gaps, function as a rope to pull himself to safety, or make bridges of yarn to drag objects across them. The variety adds fun, and it’s nice to see something new.

Each level had one to two difficult challenges, but on the whole, Unravel is not insanely difficult. I had the impression this was intended to be a relaxing journey rather than being so challenging players would feel they should have earned a degree on completion.

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This is another plot-oriented game, which is the awkward part. I didn’t think much of it until the final few moments. The ending scene was great, but the overall problem was vagueness, both in why the family was driven apart initially and what Yarny was doing to bring them back together. I think the problem could have been avoided by allowing the human characters to have a voice in the story. They could have provided back story and shown us the effect of what was going on. For example, the old woman trying to call her children and no one picking up.

However, the human characters show up so rarely that Yarny is effectively a solo act. He performs so well, though, that I hold him up as a study in characterization; a feat all the more impressive because he doesn’t talk. He manages to simultaneously convey a sense of purpose and childlike wonder. For instance, as he’s walking, he glances around at the environment as though he’s never seen anything like it before, doing things like chasing after butterflies. The developers managed to wrap up so much detail and character into his gestures. Yarny maybe one of my favorite characters ever.

Unravel is an enjoyable, if unchallenging, experience. It’s worth the couple hours to get through, fun, and visually stunning. To hark back to the beginning, if you liked Ori and the Blind Forest, you will enjoy this.

Rating: 7/10

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