Unravel Preview – PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Pulling at your heart’s strings

The emotional metaphors Unravel is built on might seem a little hamfisted at first – ‘It’s about a thing made of string that unravels as things get more difficult for it, how twee!’, you may scoff. But there’s actually a lot more going on underneath all that fabric than meets the eye.

First off, it’s published by EA – and EA actively sought out Coldwood Interactive to get the game on its roster. It’s a passion project for the publisher that has been receiving criticism for its focus on milking the multi-million dollar franchises on its books dry: it’s a human side of the juggernaut that’s been a long-time coming. Then there’s the actual developmental philosophy that Unravel has been constructed around: creative director Martin Sahlin has stated that he sees yarn as ‘a symbol of love’, a physical interpretation of the bonds that we as people have between each other.

Yarny represents a personal journey everyone has: the journey to mend bonds that have become broken or frayed. Sahlin doesn’t want to make the game’s story about any one theme necessarily – instead he sees all the narrative beats as ‘notes’ that we as players can weave together ourselves ‘to make [our own] music’. It all comes to fruition as a physics-based puzzle-platformer that works by
getting the player to immediately understand how everything works based on its visual presentation. It’s grounded in reality, so a water level, for example, will have interactive objects that’ll float. You can tell that from the bottles, sponges or buoys attached to them. It’s then up to us to read the levels and construct ways for Yarny to progress, even if it’s using his own body parts in the process.

Sahlin hopes that making the game’s levels this readable will undercut the traditional downside of puzzle-platformers: the trial-anderror. Sahlin wants players to be able to ‘retell’ levels themselves, so it’s safe to assume we’re going to get the environmental storytelling skills used in these 2D levels that we’re more used to seeing in the open-world 3D games the generation has been forthcoming in providing so far. This means the levels initially have simple concepts – a sea level where you’re trying to avoid getting washed away, or a frozen field level where you’re hiding from two crows trying to peck away at you – but the puzzles within the levels slowly take on a more complex form as time goes on. Unravel is due to release in the first quarter of 2016’s financial year – we look forward to watching Yarny evolve and grow as the date draws nearer.

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