Indie developer Coldwood Studios is a known commodity in the gaming world. Their popular hit Unravel was a charming, if somewhat simple, experience, but one that was dazzling in its presentation, musical score and most importantly, its heart. The surprise release of their sequel, Unravel Two, is poised to be in the same position as the first. This time though, there is a twist; co-op play. This is not the only innovation of course, as Unravel Two brings a lot of new challenges to the table for players to enjoy. Does it do so, however, at the cost of the simple heart of what we saw before?
For one, the game doubles down on the co-op experience heavily with two Yarnys this time around. The game's puzzles and level design are centered on the two characters, so using two Yarnys in tandem is paramount to the player's success. Players can go alone as well still by giving players the ability to control both Yarnys at once. One great attention to detail that Coldwood throws in is how they entwine the two Yarnys together for the player. Physically showing this one of many touches that give the game great character.
A lot of Unravel Two is mostly a refinement of the mechanics of the previous game. The puzzles are still relatively simple, but require more thought - and in some cases, speed and timing – to complete. The co-op aspect allows larger puzzles as well, from using a Yarny to hold the other tight as they swing a big gap, to having a Yarny distract a large enemy while the other Yarny sets up the escape route. Much like the first game, the options are limited in terms of how the puzzle can be solved. Some of the puzzles have a few possible solutions attached to them so players can experiment a bit more than the first Unravel. Still, the game does boil down to a core set of co-op moves players can use.
Unravel Two also ups the challenge, although in a more frustrating way. There are larger physical hazards, for example. The biggest obstacle comes in the form of “negative sparks” that fly across each map in both fixed or random patterns. Avoiding them is one thing, but some puzzles require good timing and quick reflexes to overcome. In a co-op setting, this can be quite tedious but rewarding.
Coldwood has also increased the replay value with challenges for each of the main levels. The seven major levels each come attached with medals for players to achieve. They are all straightforward, such as not dying on a map, discovering hidden collectibles, or completing a map in a certain time limit. There are less main levels compared to the first Unravel, but they are also longer and more complex in the platforming puzzles due to the co-op. This is ultimately a fair trade-off.
Other additions are minor ones but give the world a personal touch. There is a total of twenty challenge levels, each consisting of a single puzzle map that players can go through to unlock more Yarnys customizations. Yarnys have various heads, eye sizes, even colors, allowing players to fully tweak their duo of Yarnys to their liking.
The character of Yarny is still as charming if a bit flat this time due to the emphasis on co-op. In the first game, Yarny was akin to a silent-film star. Body language, expressive eyes, simple gestures of pushing and pulling Yarn, Yarny was endearing as a character without ever saying a word, and you felt its triumphs and tragedies throughout.
In Unravel Two, if there is any flaw to really mention, it is the loss of some of that personal charm. The Yarny’s journey in the game is about shared experiences instead of a long-running theme of love and loss. Our connections are the spark that drives us to overcome obstacles bigger than we are. That connection is paramount to the games concurrent storyline, but it leaves character development by the wayside. A weird complaint sure for a high-quality indie game, but the first Unravel had those characteristics and was able to artfully articulate them through its overall package and theme.
In a weird way, the only problem Unravel Two has is how it's more of a game. The personal, linear journey of the first gives way to timed medals, one-puzzle challenges, and a fairly short runtime. It is one of the few instances where the hooks to its mechanics contradict the primary themes in some respects. It’s not egregious like big-budget titles, but it is noticeable.
This is, ultimately, a nitpick. There's still a heart in Unravel Two. Struggling against the evil forces of man, nature, and the elements makes for a fascinating journey. The primary theme this time around does shine through of course, and the game is charming in its own way. The game is visually breathtaking, still retaining the enchanting, folk-style soundtrack. It builds upon its predecessor with plenty of gameplay to satisfy fans of the original title.
Coldwood Studios remains a top-class developer for their work here, despite my own nitpicks. Proof of that is simple; there is honestly not much to say about Unravel Two, and people should be playing it. Unravel Two is the sweetest surprise from E3 this year, providing one of the more endearing games to come out in a long while.
Unravel Two is not unlike its predecessor. The added co-op adds more incentive for players to experience its charming presence.
- Visually Beautiful Game...
- Excellent Music
- Strong Level Design
- Co-op Puzzles
- ...Loses Some Character From the Original.