I noticed Unravel, not for myself, but for my wife. - That looks like a game she'd like to play, so I bought it not long after release. We sat down together and I let her play the first level, which she never finished. We put away the game and it took months for me to return to it.
Once I did, I found out the first level have some major issues. It focuses to teach you all the mechanics, run, jump, lasso, make a knot, make a bridge and rappel down from heights. It sounds easy enough but the controls makes this tricky, so even I with 25 years of video games in my arsenal have trouble getting it right.
In its mission to teach you all the mechanics, the game forgets the whole purpose of gaming. It forgets to bring the fun, and this is where Unravel really fails the player. Learning should be playful and games should be fun.
Hello Unravel, we got off with a bad start.
Once you get past the tutorial and into the game, you will quite quickly learn the different puzzles you can do with the mechanics, and after solving them once you will finish them all with not much of a worry. This is not a very clever puzzle game. Those times I got stuck it was because I figured the puzzle would be much more advanced than it really was, so returning to the basics would always get me through. Sadly this means that the puzzles were not very rewarding but a mere obstacle of moving forward.
The way 2D platform/puzzle games keeps it interesting is by slightly changing the formula during your play through, giving you new weapons, new mechanics, new enemies with new abilities. Unravel will not do this, but put trust on the core mechanics to carry it all the way through. It doesn't really work for me, so I'm thankful the game was a short one.
Now, this sounds like an awful game, but I haven't told you about the good parts yet.
It is freaking amazing!
The game is beautiful, and not only in a technical impressive kind of way (it is that too) but from an art direction standpoint. The way everything looks, and feels and sounds comes together and plays music in your heart. It leaves a lasting impression of longing and nostalgia. The main character Yarny is crafted with such love and affection you can feel it through your TV.
If you're Swedish this game will scream Swedish tropes at you and make you smile from each and every thing you run by. You will want to continue playing because you must see what appears around the next corner, the next thing that will put a smile on your face.
And last, this game tells a story, mostly without words, that I have a really easy to connect with. It is a simple story about life, children growing up, people fighting the good fights and old people dying to leave room for the young. Yes, I cried at the end, because it was beautiful and it was worth every minute of my life to see it all through.