The first Unravel was a gem of simple platforming with a heart of gold; the perfect antithesis to the mayhem and carnage of many of its peers. Rather than shooting guns, the most violent it became was shooting a string of yarn as a lasso to help you continue your adorable pilgrimage.
Unravel, however, was a game as frustrating as it was twee, featuring puzzles that ranged from kindergarten fodder to Mensa application tests. It was a noble effort from ColdWood that fell just short of reaching the next level. So, with Unravel Two being released in the midst of E3, can Yarny climb the platforming heights this time around? Simply put, yes, as it delivers one of 2018’s most refreshingly hopeful and serene games.
The biggest difference between Unravel Two and the original game is co-op, though purely of the local variety. It’s similar to another EA Originals game, A Way Out, in that it’s been designed to be at its best when you have someone by your side with another controller. Unravel Two is great with two on a couch (even if it did cause some tension between my partner and I), but it feels like a missed opportunity to not have online co-op at all.
Co-op is straightforward: one of you controls the “Alpha” Yarny — the one from the original game — and the other controls the newly introduced one. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to refer to the newbie as “Barny” from here on out. Yarny and Barny make their way through some truly gorgeous photorealistic surroundings by jumping, lassoing, and, most importantly, depending on each other; the game’s most consistent theme and message to its players.
Progress is often halted by puzzles, which walk the fine line between being mentally taxing and also rewarding. For instance, a later stage appears to be completely unapproachable at first with a dormant wheel and a platform being the only obvious means of progression. Working together, one of you must move the platform, which will then also move the wheel but also blocks off a way to climb upwards. The solution was simple yet creative with Yarny wall-jumping his way up before reeling Barny up with his rope, allowing Barny to swing and use the momentum to reach the end goal.
Another puzzle, which almost made me slap my thigh like a drunk cowboy over how ingenius it was, features a lot of different ways to die and no obvious solution. A maze-like room of vertical furnaces would be instant death to either character, so the trick was for Yarny to lower Barny down with rope and carefully move from side-to-side while Barny also moved up and down to avoid the flames. If you’ve ever played a claw crane game at an arcade, this section will be immediately obvious, but you won’t feel cheated — just delighted.
If you haven’t been eating your multi-vitamins, Unravel Two has the solution on-hand for you anyway by pressing LB and scrolling through hints until you find the detailed guide. Some might baulk at such a “casual” introduction, but the ethos of Unravel Two is adventure — finding yourself stuck on a convoluted chin-stroker would just go against that.
Once your adventure is over, there’s actually a surprising amount of depth to be had elsewhere in Unravel Two. You can travel back to your hub, The Lighthouse, and take on challenges, such as completing a level without dying or in a set amount of time. I only tried a few of the challenges, probably because they were exactly that. If you’re worried that Unravel Two might be too easy a time, you just need to try out one of its many side-distractions — they made me feel like I had porridge for brains.
Apart from allowing you to show off how stubborn you are, overcoming these challenges also unlocks customisation options for Barny, such as the ability to change their head-shape and hue. The default Barny is blue, but I wasted no time in switching them to a nice yellow. You’re also able to change their body and eye shape, allowing you the perfect blueprint to take to ColdWood and demand they make you a replica to carry around with you forever.
Most of my five or so hours with Unravel Two was spent solo and it worked just as well as if I had someone by my side. Switching characters with Y to solve individual pieces of the puzzles was painless with the ability to conjoin the two characters into one Yarny by holding down the same button a welcome one. Unravel Two is just an altogether smooth game with buttery controls and a framerate that remained remarkably solid throughout. If the original game was a rough diamond, its sequel is a resplendent one.
No game is perfect, and Unravel Two inevitably has its own drawbacks. Just like the first game, there’s an ethereal story unfolding in the background, but this time out it feels somewhat superflous — the bond between Yarny and Barny was more than enough of an emotional anchor. Similarly, there are quite a few cheap deaths that come out of nowhere, such as falling rocks when you tug at something using your lasso. A minor complaint, sure, but it sucked out some of the momentum I had carved out for myself after swinging around levels like a pair of cotton Tarzans.
Even if there are a couple of minor quibbles to be had with Unravel Two, it’s still everything you’d ever want from a follow-up. It’s a genuine step-up from its predecessor with smoother controls and more gameplay styles while also retaining the irrefutable charm that won the first game so many fans. With any luck, Unravel Two will win many more.
Full of heart and fresh ideas, Unravel Two is everything you’d want from a platformer sequel.