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Review

Unravel Two (Switch) Review

by March 28, 2019

Modern video games have a vast array of tools available to create compelling and emotional experiences. With motion capture, voice acting, photorealistic graphics and vast, living worlds, there’s no shortage of games that craft captivating narratives that pull at the heartstrings. A far less common feat is to achieve this with nary a word of dialogue or even much of a story at all. Unravel Two is a charming and heart-warming adventure that utilises character design, gameplay mechanics and environmental storytelling to convey a personal journey about the bonds we share with others over the course of a deeply satisfying puzzle platformer.

For those who missed the first game, you play as the adorable Yarny – a small doll made entirely of yarn. After your ship capsizes in a storm, you wash up on the shore of a nearby island. You quickly encounter a blue-stringed counterpart, and the two instinctively join their threads together and set off to find safety. The emotional bond the two share only grows over the course of the 6-hour journey, communicated through nothing more than the movement of their little white eyes and their expressive body language. The genius of Unravel Two comes via the way the game’s design and challenges reinforce this bond at every step.

With the two Yarny’s joined together, the whole game is played with the two characters. They can both swing from yarn points, rappel from one-another, launch across gaps, and tie knots between points for make-shift bridges. The controls feel tight and precise, with swings having the perfect amount of weight and momentum that makes navigating the tricky terrain a joy.

Two player co-op is clearly the intended way to play, but those going it alone can morph the two Yarnys together for the platforming sections and then split them up to alternate between controlling each one for the puzzle areas. The system works well, with puzzles never requiring precision timing or dexterity to perform tricky manoeuvres with both characters simultaneously.

The puzzles make the most of Yarny’s stringy composition and the dual character set up, with clever and inventive new challenges throughout the story. Some puzzles will require you to build bridges for shifting obstacles, whilst others will have you interacting with mechanisms in the level and looping up and around objects. The puzzles never become frustratingly difficult but still manage to elicit a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you figure them out. If you do get stuck, a tiered hint system can provide you with three hints ranging a slight thought-provoking prod to a detailed explanation of how to complete it. Even if you never use it, having the range of accessibility for players of all skill levels is appreciated. 

This welcoming design extends to the way the puzzles work with two players. Both characters will need to work together to often get one Yarny up to a ledge, but normally one role requires significantly more precise inputs and timing. Once one player has reached where they need to be, they can usually anchor themselves in place and have the other player climb up to meet them. Frequent checkpoints and quick load times also mean the punishment for failure is minimal. It all makes Unravel Two a perfect co-op experience if your Player Two perhaps has a bit less gaming experience than you.

Each of the seven levels is accessed from portals inside a lighthouse hub world. Each portal whisks you away to a unique and vibrant world.  From striking natural vistas to eerie warehouses, each level is a sight to behold. Despite the limitations of the Switch, I constantly found myself stopping to admire the scenery, take screenshots and just bask in the lush wilderness. The various landscapes present a number of obstacles to overcome, from malfunctioning machinery to white rapids to angry chickens, meaning each level feels interesting and fresh.

Throughout the levels you’ll also come across ghostly visions of two young children. If there’s one area of the game that falls short, this would have to be it. These short vignettes frequently appear and show the children on the run and escaping a number of troubling situations. Their actions create dramatic events which impact the levels, but we are never given enough context or information to gain an understanding of what is really going on or to really care, which feels like a missed opportunity. It does, however, keep the focus on our red and blue Yarnys, and the emotional weight of their voyage more than carries the story.

The main story manages to keep the simple premise intriguing to the end, with excellent pacing and a constant flow of new puzzle ideas resulting in a game that doesn’t wear out its welcome. It all culminates in a final level that is nothing short of breathtaking. It combines Unravel Two’s flowing jumps, natural landscapes, a special new ability and soaring music that will have you swelling up with joy.

The entire soundtrack is incredible and deserves special mention. Composers Frida Johansson and Henrik Oja utilise traditional Swedish folk music instruments to create an evocative and powerful yet serene soundtrack that perfectly complements the emotional ebbs and flows of each stage. With no dialogue and minimalist natural ambience, the combination of soothing melodies and soaring instrumentals drives the emotional beats every step of the way until the final credit rolls.

Once you’ve finished the main quest, you can replay each level to earn medals for hunting down collectables and beating time trials. There’s also a plethora of challenge levels with significantly more complex puzzles. Those who are left wanting something more difficult than what the story dishes up will be satiated by these challenging levels that will put your intellect to the test. It’s a great way of extending the replay value of the game, and completing them unlocks a variety of customisation options for your Yarnys.

Unravel Two is a sheer delight. You can feel the love and care that went into crafting every fibre of this heart-warming adventure, and the emotional bond between the Yarnys resonates every step of the way. With a stunning range of sights to see, a beautiful soundtrack and a meticulous blend of challenging yet accessible puzzles, you can’t help but fall in love with this game. This is still worth your time if you’re playing solo, but if you have a co-op companion to join you, this game should be an essential part of your Switch library. Don’t miss it.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Good

+ Clever puzzles
+ Beautiful natural environments
+ Incredible soundtrack

The Bad

- Story vignettes are underutilised

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Unravel Two is a sheer delight. You can feel the love and care that went into crafting every fibre of this heart-warming adventure, and the emotional bond between the Yarnys resonates every step of the way. With a stunning range of sights to see, a beautiful soundtrack and a meticulous blend of challenging yet accessible puzzles, you can’t help but fall in love with this game.

This is still worth your time if you’re playing solo, but if you have a co-op companion to join you, this game should be an essential part of your Switch library. Don’t miss it.

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About The Author
Andrew Searles
I like to write. I do reviews and other bits for @vooksdotnet. Still playing Pokemon Go. Will probably buy Resident Evil 4 again when they release it on my fridge.

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