Unravel Two (Xbox One Review)
Back in 2016 Coldwood Interactive released a charming little puzzle platformer called Unravel which I absolutely adored. Taking control of a small anthropomorphic ball of yarn called Yarny, players would swing, climb, and tether their way through the memories of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. Stringing together lost thoughts and heartfelt scenes made Unravel the lovable platformer it is today. So, with EA’s surprise announcement of Unravel Two, I was excited to jump back in with Yarny and prayed that it inspired the same fascination and joy of the original.
This time around Yarny is bringing a pal with him in his journey to find his ‘Spark’. Tossed overboard during a raging sea storm, Yarny and co are stranded and fight off the encroaching darkness while they venture through different worlds and overcome great odds. While Unravel Two dances to the same beat as its predecessor, it does with a new found exuberance. Worlds are far livelier and the pacing harmoniously traverses both the frantic and serene. Chase scenes are thrilling and make Unravel Two a more punctual experience that finds rest stops in its slow and methodical puzzles.
While Yarny boasts a well woven structure, the same can’t be said for Unravel Two. This time around it all feels convoluted and the story didn’t quite piece together. Upon navigating Unravel Two’s levels, a series of scenes play out in the background, depicting children up to no good and fleeing danger in the form of unidentifiable adults. There’s a feeling of isolation for each scene. They all work individually but they don’t create a cohesive story, even upon the reflection of reaching Unravel Two’s climax.
Although the overall story was the main attraction in Unravel, Unravel Two stretches far beyond that and more than makes up for the story’s shortcomings. The diversity in the environment is astounding. Starting in a quaint forest, you’ll quickly meander through the relaxing fields of the countryside, and then slowly build towards the raging rapids climaxing with the with harsh industrial complexes. The swift changes from picturesque to unruly appear to happen in minutes, but the reality is that you can lose countless hours to the well crafted and rapturous world.
As intimidating as Unravel Two’s levels might be, you’ll always have a friend by your side. Co-op is now a massive part of the experience and the teamwork required to string together solutions to the complex puzzles adds a layer that the original couldn’t. You can use your partner as an anchor, combine threads to create bridges, and work together to overcome the odds. Even without the presence of a co-op partner, you’re still able to experience the same mechanics by fusing the two characters, only separating when the need arises. It means that Unravel two is able to celebrate its own cooperative play without detriment to the single player element.
You’ll swing through Unravel Two’s world at a brisk pace, so brisk that it starts as quickly as it ends. There are only 7 levels in the campaign and in spite of their superb design you’ll be left with an unquenchable thirst for more. The levels do open up to further exploration in pursuit of collectibles, completion times, and perfect runs after completion and finishing these additional objectives will allow you to personalise Yarny. On top of that there are also challenge rooms to help stave off your hunger for more. The challenge rooms, all 20 of them, boast their own gimmick, like surviving for a set amount of time or staying on a moving platform. All of this builds towards a load more replay value for all those involved, even if the story doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Unravel Two has its hiccups: the story doesn’t live up to the original and it’s incredibly short. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t disappoint. The level design is exquisite and the replay value is far higher than the original. There’s even the additional bonus in that you can share the experience with friends. It’s an adventure worth taking and a series that you can’t afford to pass up on.