I’ll spin you a yarn of this wonderful little game.
Few indie games have managed to steal my heart as quickly as Unravel did when it was announced on-stage at E3 2015. The nervous but genuine enthusiasm from director Martin Sahlin convinced me how invested he and his colleagues at Coldwood Interactive were in delivering a game that was both touching and satisfying. Now that Unravel Two has made its way to Nintendo Switch, I’ve been able to see firsthand just what’s so special about this cute puzzle-platformer and its adorable protagonist, Yarny.
Unravel Two opens with Yarny being swept away at sea by a terrible storm, eventually being stranded at shore. When he awakens, he finds a second Yarny who joins him on a journey to find...something. There’s not a lot of focus on the actual plot of Unravel Two—the story is mostly made up of ghostly vignettes of people who used to be in the areas you’re traveling through. The main appeal of this game’s story is the emotional pathos of traveling through these areas with a friend. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone on hand to play local co-op with me—and Unravel Two does not have online play—so I had to play the entire game solo. But even though I didn’t have anyone to travel with, I still managed to feel invested in the bond between the two Yarnys I was playing as, and watching them both struggle, endure, and triumph together was all I needed to fill in the blanks of my own story.
While the story is built on the emotional bond of the Yarnys, the gameplay is built on the physical bond between them. The two characters share a strand of yarn that connects them together, and solving puzzles requires you to think about the physics of that connection. Each player is able to act as an anchor holding the string between the two as a rope. The other player can then climb this rope to reunite with their friend or swing from the rope to reach new heights that neither player could reach alone. A lot of puzzles involve figuring out how to move one player in order to wrap the rope around a certain object or platform in order to get both players up to a new section. The payoff is a co-op puzzle game that makes both characters feel truly necessary; where most co-op puzzle games simply have solo tasks that must be done simultaneously, Unravel Two makes each player a meaningful part of the same task.
Unfortunately, Unravel Two doesn’t explore its ideas for puzzles with as much depth as I would’ve liked. Although the seven-chapter campaign is pleasant the whole way through, you’ll rarely be learning any new skills once you’ve left the tutorial at the start of the game. There isn’t a single bad puzzle in the game, but they do start to blend together a bit once you’ve seen the same general ideas over and over. Thankfully there’s a set of optional levels that are filled with more difficult puzzles than the main campaign. These puzzles are great and help to scratch that itch for more challenging tasks, but it’s a bit disappointing the main game doesn’t try to experiment as much with its ideas.
Although I would’ve liked more challenge in the campaign, I still had fun with Unravel Two right up until the very end. Yarny is an adorable character that stole my heart right from the beginning, and the unique puzzles that come from both characters being literally strung together made for a fresh spin on co-op puzzle solving. I feel like I missed out on something special by playing by myself, and I think that if you get the opportunity you should definitely play the whole campaign with a friend. But if you’re like me and can’t find anyone else to play with, then you’ll still be able to enjoy the entire game solo by switching between the Yarnys. Whether you’re alone or with a friend, it’s worth seeing the emotional journey of Unravel Two through to its end.