Let's Play: Unravel

by Kasyoka Mwanzia — Nairobi

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Yarny is delightful sprite bringing us strong themes of family ties, charming recreations of nature, and messages on the environment. Though the overt symbolism of the red thread may come across as syrupy, it is nonetheless earnestly felt.

From the Swedish development team at ColdWood Interactive and released by Electronic arts is the tiny, endearing character Yarny in the physics-based puzzle platform Unravel and it’s nice to see a big name like EA putting value in quieter titles from indie developers.

From the trailer and the demo you will likely go in as I did expecting to leap between tree branches, onto sunflowers, collecting an elderly woman’s memories to a chirpily delightful soundtrack. Well it isn’t all sweet and cheery and the game will kill you more than the bright packaging suggests. It seems that Mother Nature really has it in for Yarny. You can look forward to getting mauled by gophers, crabs, magpies, not to mention the hazards of the terrain like getting crushed by rock slides, fried by electrical current and drowning in toxic slush. There is an unmissable commentary on the Anthropocene.

Unravel

Yarny is fun and dynamic but the game play can also be finicky and unforgiving. Completing a level sometimes means completing jumps and yarn ties in a very specific order. Having to give a particular section a try for the tenth time - partly due to Yarny’s imprecise jumping and sometimes the need for absolutely precise physics - can be tortuous. Mostly maddening was the insane cat’s cradles of thread I found myself creating only to have something I had tried before FINALLY work. Thankfully, the checkpoints ensure you don’t have to go back too far and are accessible with a quick reset.

Each level has a different tempo and each requires you to figure out the physics and string management in its own way to collect the knitted heirloom at the end. Hit’s a few snags but the whole experience stays knit together.