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Unravel 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Coldwood
Release Date: June 9, 2018


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PS4 Review - 'Unravel Two'

by Cody Medellin on June 12, 2018 @ 5:45 a.m. PDT

Unravel 2 is a side-scrolling platformer in which players control a pair of fantastical creatures called Yarnys as they navigate environments.

Buy Unravel Two

At E3 2015, EA kicked off its EA Originals program with Unravel, a game that elicited a heartwarming response from the crowd due to the nervous energy that the creator Martin Sahlin expressed on stage. When the game came out in February of 2016, it was charming thanks to the character of Yarny and the story being subtly told against its good platforming mechanics. Few expected a sequel to the game, and fewer expected that release date to fall on the day of the first conference headed up by EA, but here we are with the surprise release of Unravel Two.

The game starts off with a storm at sea and a boat with no pilot. We see Yarny at the deck trying to hold on for dear life but to no avail, as he gets dumped overboard. Trying desperately to get back, his yarn snaps, and the spark that was there is now gone. We wake up washed ashore on an island, and it doesn't take long for him to find another Yarny similar to himself, including a frayed end. They decide to touch those threads, keeping them linked to one another as they set off on a brand-new adventure.

Much like the first game, Yarny's adventures cause memories to go by as he and his new partner traverse each level. In this case, the memories focus on two teenagers who are on the run from some unknown figures. Compared to the original game's tale, this one isn't as heavy. You'll still get moments of despair every now and then, and the environments can sometimes be unwelcoming, but you aren't going to get a tinge of sadness at the journey's end. The story was made purposefully more adventurous and less emotional this time around, and while that can disappoint some, the wordless tale remains intriguing enough to see through to the end.

The opening cut scene leads you to one of the first big changes in the sequel: co-op play. Whether you're playing alone or with someone else locally, you'll always have two Yarnys to control; solo play lets you switch control between Yarnys at any time, while co-op is a drop-in/drop-out affair. A number of puzzles use this co-op feature well, from holding objects so the other Yarny can jump to a higher elevation to using one as an anchor while the other makes a wild swing to another platform. The co-op play is a good idea, but it is disappointing to see that online play isn't featured.

Not every puzzle requires co-op, however, so Unravel Two lets you carry the other Yarny on your back, eventually seeing that Yarny integrate with the other until you ask them to separate again. Even then, the game employs some very good puzzles involving things like makeshift trampolines and platforms. There's also lots of swinging around and timing those swings so you can reach new grapple points. Though it isn't a masochistic platformer along the lines of Cloudberry Kingdom or Fenix Rage, it does require more dexterity than expected for something so narrative-driven.

For the most part, the game does a good job of providing a slow progression of puzzle and platforming mechanics to keep things fresh. You'll start off with things like making bridges and learning how to swing. You'll progress to things like wall-jumping and using your yarn to yank away objects. Before you know it, you'll perform more complicated swings and use your yarn to loop around objects to pull yourself up as switches close out passageways you had previously opened.

Unravel Two also happens to a lot more helpful in terms of letting you know what you can and can't interact with. Unlike the first game, any peg you can grab with your yarn is clearly labeled with tied-up bits of red and blue yarn. The same goes for the posts you can make bridges with. There's also a faint sparkly arc that appears whenever you jump, so you have a much better idea of how close you need to be to make a yarn grab. Interactive objects and walkable platforms are also more distinct this time, though the effect is subtle enough that few people will notice the distinction. Finally, because both Yarnys are connected to one another, the idea of having to refill your yarn stash at checkpoints is gone, though you still have a limit in terms of how far apart the Yarnys can be from one another. Overall, there's enough quality of life stuff here to make this feel like a better game.

At the same time, players will get the sense that this is a much easier title, at least in terms of puzzles. None of the puzzles are overly difficult, as you'll immediately see the solution the moment you encounter the puzzle. Almost every electrical field requires you to use one Yarny as an anchor while the other swings to a side, and the solution to large gaps is usually the same — with the added action of having to pull up the other Yarny to complete the puzzle. If anything, the only difficult part to these puzzles lies in the platforming physics.

It is a shame, then, that the platforming hasn't improved greatly since the first title. Jumping feels floaty, so there are times when you'll have trouble sticking the landing on a jump because you couldn't find your footing. There's a sense of weightlessness to both Yarnys; this is especially evident when you start swinging and reach the apex of your swings quicker than expected. The generous checkpoint system means that dying from these platforming mishaps isn't going to set you back very far, and the lack of pits means that you can easily retry a jump, but it would've been nice if these gripes had been addressed from the first game.

At the very least, Unravel Two gives you a number of things to do once you finish the short campaign. Each of the story levels has around six hidden sparks to acquire that let you open up more images related to the story in obscure ways. The levels also have medals for finishing the stages in set times; there are different-colored medals, and you'll also get one for not dying. Finishing a level opens up a few challenge levels, so those who can handle the platforming can test their mettle.

Much like the first game, the presentation is stunning. The environments look absolutely picturesque, with every single element looking vivid and detailed. The loading screen is simply a view of a small body of water, and that alone is mesmerizing. There's never a shortage of things to gawk at in the outdoor areas, whether it's the fish trying to eat you or the grass and flowers that comprise your path. Indoor areas aren't as awe-inspiring, but their own level of detail is stunning nonetheless. Sonically, the soundtrack is once again perfect, as the mix of dread and wonder are all expertly done with nary a moment of silence in between. The silent nature of both the protagonists and the characters in the glimpsed memories become a powerful tool in telling the story.

Unravel Two is equally as good as the emotionally pleasing original. The platforming may still be spotty, and some of the puzzles may not present players with much difficulty, but at least frustration doesn't set in because of viable attach points hiding in plain sight. The story may not be as powerful as the original, but the addition of co-op play makes up for that and offers new experiences. In the end, Unravel Two is a great title for platforming fans.

Score: 8.0/10

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