Games Review: Unravel 2(Xbox One, 2018): A Common Thread

Unravel 2 is the sort of game that strengthens interpersonal bonds.  It’s a wonderful team building exercise, a game cut from the same warm emotional mould as its predecessor but with a rather different point to make.

Where the original game sent its lovely protagonist, a home-made yarn doll named Yarny, on an adventure through a forest, Unravel 2 has Yarny teamed up with a friend. Bound by a single strand of yarn, both Yarnies must work together to solve a fresh set of physics and exploration based puzzles.

This one addition to the formula totally changes developer Coldwood Interactive’s approach to puzzle design. Where Yarny had to figure out how to navigate the world with nothing more that the red string that made up their body, now its about momentum. An example: There is a yawning gap that needs to be crossed to complete the current level. Yarny #1 can be used as a kind of anchor while Yarny #2, holding onto the thread that connects them both, shimmies down and starts to swing back and forth on the rope, building forward momentum to clear the gap. Here’s the thing, though: it’s Yarny #1 that has to perfectly time the moment they let go of Yarny #2 to ensure they complete the jump.

The game is full to bursting of moments like these, little instances that demand a certain amount of trust between each player. There’s room to mess with your partner, certainly, but the only way to succeed is to work together.

Great, David, I hear your moaning, what you’ve just very florally described is a pretty standard couch co-op experience.  Well, yes, that’s true, but thematically there’s more at play here.

The original Unravel was about self-sufficiency, about moving forward in the face of adversity. The red string railing behind Yarny an inexorable link to the challenges you overcame on your journey. It was a lonely experience, but a hopeful one. Conversely, Unravel 2 is about the journeys you take with others, those you are bound to. It’s a more fulfilling game than the original, and that is, I think, by design.

There’s plenty of co-operative games out there, but Unravel 2 is one of the very few that understands the co-operative spirit and incorporates it as a foundational element of its design. It’s clever and sweet in a way that many games forget to be, and therein lies its considerable charm. Get it and play it with someone you love.

Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Charming; Some clever puzzles; Yarny remains adorable
Lowlights: Some puzzles may be frustrating for younger or less experienced players
Developer: Coldwood Interactive
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One,  Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on Xbox One X with a retail code provided by the publisher.