Unravel Two Review
Sometimes having someone near you is all it takes to overcome a tough obstacle in life. Though this is true in real life, it also serves as the foundation for Unravel Two, the sequel to the well-received 2016 PlayStation exclusive. Unravel Two was given a surprise announcement and immediate release at the start of E3 2018, and though it may not be as flashy and exciting as some of the big games at the expo this year, it’s still a beautiful and charming puzzle-platformer with some clever mechanics at its core.
For the sake of full disclosure, I should mention now that I never played the original Unravel so I can’t directly compare how the two games stack up. That being said, it’s clear the biggest difference between them is the addition of a second playable Yarny. As someone who hasn’t played the original, I found it hard to believe there was only a single Yarny in the first game considering how brilliantly a second one is woven into the gameplay of Unravel Two. The two Yarnies (is Yarny singular and plural?) are literally tied together and nearly all the puzzles revolve around using both characters to solve them. The use of yarn in solving puzzles may sound a bit ridiculous, but it’s incorporated in quite clever and original ways. Many of the puzzles require each Yarny to act independently and serve as an anchor or even as a lure for enemies. As a whole, the puzzles are fairly straightforward and don’t take more than a few minutes each, but they still feel rewarding to solve. And even if you get stuck, there is a robust hint system that can provide a bit of helpful knowledge or give you full directions on how to solve an entire puzzle depending on what you prefer.
Seamless Platforming Fun
Puzzles only make up part of Unravel Two, however, and the platforming sections contained many of my favorite moments. The physics of the game feel natural and appropriate and Yarny handles surprisingly well. I loved using my string of yarn to swing across the gorgeous maps like a fuzzy Tarzan. One of the most memorable and odd moments was frantically running away from a giant, ferocious bird while avoiding obstacles and traversing platforms simultaneously.
One of the best parts about having a second Yarny this time around is the ability to play the entire game in local co-op. Playing with someone next to you can make the experience easier or more challenging depending on the type of puzzle, but it was almost always more humorous. Don’t worry though, Unravel Two can be completed entirely solo, and I imagine that will be the case for most players. Playing alone was never an issue, though, and swapping between the each Yarny is quick and easy. By holding down triangle while standing close together, you can merge them into a single Yarny, which comes in especially handy during the platforming sections of the game. The most important thing, though, is I never felt penalized for playing by myself but did feel rewarded if I chose to play with a friend.
Where Unravel Two exceeds in its platforming and puzzles, it also fails a bit in how it handles its story. Though most of the focus is on the Yarnies and their adventure, there is a semblance of a story going on in the world behind them. Occasionally, the soft focus of the backdrop is lifted, and we get a glimpse into the lives of two teenagers who appear to be constantly running away from adults. These brief glances into their story are vague, and feel more like distant memories than anything else, but what happens in their story also seems to impact the Yarnies. Though my interpretation of story is about fading childhood, what we do get to see is too fleeting to make any concrete deductions. I did admire the parallels between what was happening with the teenagers and the Yarnies, but the story left me wanting something more fleshed out. Thankfully, the world itself is so beautiful and near-photorealistic at times I didn’t mind when the action was put on pause to check in on the fleeing teens.
After playing Unravel Two, I was bummed its predecessor completely flew under my radar. I immediately fell in love with Yarny and his companion, and the puzzles and platforming were consistently solid. It’s unfortunate the story was sidelined a bit, but the implantation of couch co-op surely helps makes up for it. I could easily see myself going back later on to finish all the extra challenge levels with a friend. Though its story is ambiguous, one message comes through loud and clear: having people to depend on is what keeps us going in life, and Unravel Two is a gentle and effective reminder of that.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- Platforming feels fluid and fun
- Mechanics are incorporated into puzzles well
- Beautiful, diverse levels
- Yarny is adorable
- Story is vague and confusing