By Zante Barker
Puzzle platform games have been around since the beginning of history, well, games history. They’ve always been a personal favorite because they’re so challenging and require serious strategizing. Maybe it’s because I like math so much, but give me a good puzzle and I’m super happy. Unravel Two is a double-player video game that was developed by the Swedish studio Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts. I played it on the Switch.
Unravel Two starts off with you as a red Yarny, a small, animated doll made of spun thread. In the middle of a storm, you’re tossed out into the sea. You’ve washed out really far into the dark waters and there’s lightning all around. You have a tether to the boat, but it breaks and a large wave comes and swallows, you pushing you much further away. Now, you wake up not knowing where you are exactly. But you’re on a strange, foresty island with a rocky shore where you meet a blue Yarny, who emerges from an old brown suitcase. With a spark of friendship, the two of you combine the loose ends of their strings. When you do this, you both can work together in order to have a chance to leave the island.
The way the game was set up really got my attention. The main menu screen was black and gray in color, and the animation of the gray fog and rain in the user interface really set the mysterious mood of the game. Plus, the way the menu is divided into different sections really was organized well. I easily found what I collected throughout the game, like a painting.
In these eight chapters, the Yarnys look really cute and the way they move makes them even cuter as if they’re like thin, fast penguins. The red Yarny has a crown on its head, and the blue Yarny has two horns. But for customization, I wish they had more options than just changing the head, eyes, body, and color. I want them to add things like the height of the characters or giving more variation to the color selection.
But I liked the real world aspect, such as being able to interact with objects like a point on a realistic tree or the top of the fence. You can even get from one end of a pond to another or to the top of a cliff using yarn. Additionally, you can jump from side to side when going in between rocks to get up to a higher level.
There are people here, and you see their movements from a distance. To me, these are ghost-like island visitors, much bigger humans acting out a certain scene depending on where are you are – like a young girl and a boy dealing with something scary. Plus, some of the people let out what I see as negative black and red sparks like there’s something bad going on. The music in this game moves from happy and joyful to sadder, depending on the moment. I enjoyed it all because I think the music fits really perfectly into the game and it reminds me a little of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when there are strings like a big orchestra.
Although this has become one of my favorite games, I sometimes got stuck for a while on the same section and “rage quit” which led to things I didn’t like. Also, changing from one Yarny to the other got confusing and having to control two Yarnys at the same time in single-player mode can be frustrating. There were moments when the environment was sometimes dark and hard to see, even when I turned the brightness up on my Switch. Sometimes, when I’m frustrated, I put the game aside and take time to think of another strategy. As the puzzles get more difficult, you’re going to need another player at some point to help you think of solutions and make progress easier. Lastly, the game is supposed to give me hints but when I press the exact buttons I don’t see any hints that show up on the screen. They need more specific hints!
Overall, Unravel Two is a work of art and I personally enjoyed all the time I set aside to play. With the touching story, realistic visuals, the moving music, and the lassoing game mechanics, this really was the best game I have ever played. But having various strategies is key. I’m still not finished, but I always put various ideas to the test to see if they work. I think people that are into puzzle games like me would sit down and enjoy this, especially if you have someone else to play with.
Zante Barker is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern, part of our ongoing partnership with the Bronx’s DreamYard Preparatory School.