Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Unravel Brings In The Charm

The quirky, and somehow cute tale of Unravel managed to capture our hearts at E3 last year. Yarny is becoming the the EA equivalent of SackBoy (Little Big Planet). You can  make your own, with the help of a handy guide from the development team.

Last week, for those with EA Access, they were allowed to try Unravel, releasing today officially, for up to 10 hours and play through the first 2 levels absolutely free. I've been very interested in this game since it was first announced, so I signed up for EA Access to try it out. I will most likely regret this decision later. You also get the game for 10% off if you signed up, so there is that. I'm still fairly certain I'll regret doing so later. (EA Access allows you to try unreleased games a week or two prior to release, and save 10% on future purchases for $4.99 a month. Thank goodness I got the trial version - and I did it for Yarny!)

Developed by Coldworld Interactive and picked up by EA, Unravel has been striking a cord with gamers for it's unique look and story concept. The game was inspired by a series of photographs from a team member's journey. So what you play through is another person's scrap-book. That may be odd for some people, and I think as we see more reviews on the game released we'll find a balance on opinions. I'm still uncertain if I like where the story is headed, but I'm intrigued. It's not just Yarny playing a unique journey; and maybe that's a good thing. Open world stories are filling the landscape these days. Having a set path with unique ways to get there is a nice change of pace.

Part of the charm of Yarny is being able to take his yarn-like body and utilizing it to overcome obstacles. You can whip your yarn tail and careen over "mountains" (which are piles of dirt) to avoid pits of water. Or you can grab cans, fruit, small rocks, and other items to solve puzzles that open up the next section of the level. The platforming elements are retro but have a twist to them that they feel fresh. At it's worse, the game sometimes forces you make split-second jumps that ultimately end up with you falling to your yarn-doom. You don't get a chance to really enjoy the scenery around you in those moments - which does a disservice to the game. But if you're played any of the Little Big Planet primary story, you'll be able to easily pick up the controls on this one and run through Unravel with ease.

The visuals of Unravel are lovely. If Journey and Little Big Planet had a child, this would be it. Beautiful pastels make up the background that it almost looks like you're walking through a painting, or an expansive art gallery. The environment makes up a huge portion of the story, and a lot of care went into the details. It shows. I could sit and take pictures for an hour instead of playing the game as intended. Though those platforming jumps make that quite difficult when you have to make quick decisions. Some of the joy of Unravel is to sit and let the environment move around your character. I think that's where the game really shines. The puzzles are all well and fine, but the unique design of the world and the character stand out in this sea of AAA titles we're use to seeing from EA. It's a nice change of pace.

With access to only the first 2 levels, I made the most of them. Reviews out are stating that there are 9 levels in all, and you learn a new game mechanic on each level. Unfortunately, this makes for a very short game. I was able to complete these levels within an hour, even with my "ohh that's cool" stop and look moments. You can take more time to solve additional puzzles pick up collectible pieces, and what-not, but at the end of the day it's still a short game. I was hoping that it would open up and add new possibilities as you progress, but it seems to repeat the add-age of every platforming game where you make it more difficult as you go until it ends.

But I am curious enough to continue playing it. It was a delightful experience, filled with very mild frustration at the platforming jumps, with an overall wonder of where Yarny will go to next. Maybe I'll make it my streaming game for this week.

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