Review

Review: Unravel Two (Xbox One)

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I played the entirety of Unravel 2 with my six year old daughter. How did it hold up to such varied interests and skill levels?

At a Glance: 8.5 out of 10

Unravel Two is an incredibly charming game with a spectacular two player mode that allows it to connect with a wide variety of players, while remaining fun and engaging to even the most skilled among us. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

The original Unravel was something of a head scratcher for me when it came out. It  originally seemed like a EA marketing play to provide a softer light to their company, something to insure the populace that they too were people just like us. I maintained that skepticism all the way up until the point I played it and found a somewhat flawed game with a tremendous amount of charm and love put into its creation.

I discovered Unravel Two during the holiday break was on a massive price discount, so I picked it up. My daughter saw the icon on the Xbox as I booted it up and asked since there were two Yarny characters if this was two player. I hesitated to tell her yes, after all she is 6 years old and this was a puzzle platformer, but her cuteness won out, and I gave her the second controller.

Turns out not only would we play Unravel Two together, but it would be the first game me and my daughter would complete together. Even more surprisingly we had a wonderful time doing so–so much so that she still often asks to play “Yarny 2” even though we’ve completed it now twice.

It is difficult for me to review games of this nature that I’ve played through and created memories with my children with. I’m still able to somewhat look at the mechanics and the game objectively in regards to quality (as objective as reviews can ever be), but my overall impression of it is changed regardless. So you can take my review or leave it depending on that statement, as I do believe that playing with my daughter has affected my opinion of the game a little.

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Unravel Two is a drastically improved version of the first, with the main mechanic changing significantly to involve a second character made of yarn. Rather than slowly unraveling yourself across the level and being dependent on new yarn to keep going, you are tied to this second character. Playing by yourself is certainly feasible as the AI is competent, and you can switch between them on the fly, but having a second person makes everything more fluid and fun. The puzzles you come across are sometimes very clever, and they all have to do with manipulating the connection between you to swing, climb, and make your way through the levels.

What makes this newest entry into the series so approachable, however, is how easy it is for the second player to contribute regardless of skill level. I had to carry my daughter through a lot of the sections, and it was easy to do so by climbing to the top of an obstacle we cleared and holding the yarn so she could climb up without having to do complex swinging maneuvers. She still felt entirely involved though, in certain areas she would hold the string and I would drop down to swing from it to the next platform. What was genius about the setup was that I could even change in the options who would time when I would let go for momentum of the swing. This means my daughter when she did swing would just have to move the stick back and forth, and I would release the trigger when the timing was right. Typically you have to hold the trigger to not let go of your rope, but this option allowed her not to have to focus on that. It allowed her to feel engaged and helpful, while also allowing me to help her along whenever she got stuck.

You would think this is a small thing, but the amount of tweaking to levels to insure one player could always help the other without one just bubbling up and feeling useless had to be extraordinarily difficult, and the extra effort culminates in a game that is incredibly enjoyable even when two people are of disparate skill levels. Later I played with my much more gaming adept twelve year old, and suddenly the focus became how fast we could get through the environments and getting all the collectibles. There is an inherent scalability and approachability in that design philosophy that as a parent of two children six years apart I adore—a philosophy I rarely see outside of a Nintendo game.

There is an overarching narrative that takes place in the background of the levels that sometimes you interact with as Yarny, but after finishing the game I could only tell you the most base idea of what it is about. It feels very art house, with no voice overs and leaving it up to you to decide what occurred–albeit with a heartwarming message tying things together from the developer at the end. I appreciated that they tried to improve the narrative of the first and make it more uplifting in the long term, but really either way the narrative isn’t really the point of a game of this type. The levels themselves are well designed, with memorable set pieces, and the puzzles make you feel clever without being too obtuse in order to remain approachable.

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Unravel Two is an incredibly charming game with a spectacular two player mode that allows it to connect with a wide variety of players, while remaining fun and engaging to even the most skilled among us. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

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