E3 2015: Hands on with ‘Unravel’

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If you’re familiar with some of my work on psnation.com, you may have detected a bit of a love/hate relationship between the Indie Revolution and I. On the one hand, I cherish experiences offered by games like TowerFall Ascension and Guacamelee. They don’t require you to dedicate your life to them for weeks and their storied development cycles are often remarkable. On the other hand, I fear the evaporation of the Triple A well and I want more games that will push technological limits. Read more about my thoughts on the matter here.

At the risk of not “belonging”, a little game called Unravel found itself being revealed at EA’s E3 2015 press conference, surrounded by giants like Star Wars: Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and the EA Sports lineup. Before watching the reveal trailer and going hands on for 15 minutes, I thought it’d be a long time before a platformer would match the charm and non-verbal emotional engagement of Ori and the Blind Forest. EA may be late to the party with finding, funding, and publishing the work of quality Indie devs but I commend them for their support of this incredible looking title.
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Unravel is a 2D puzzle platformer staring Yarnie, an overwhelmingly cutesy character made of unraveling yarn. You are tethered to the beginning of the level by your yarn tail and it will continue to lessen the mass of your body as you progress. Walking backward will collect the yarn and players quickly learn that Yarnie has limits. You can no longer move forward when you’re out of yarn and you must find creative ways to access the level’s floating yarn orbs to replenish yourself and continue. It is a wonderful way to introduce mandatory collectibles into the gameplay.

Beside platforming and yarn collecting, Yarnie showcases a few badass Spider-Man qualities by throwing yarn lassos to climb things and creating yarn bridges to walk across and reach new areas. The game does an awesome job of making the player feel very frail and afraid. Yarnie was birthed from a peaceful home where the tranquility of a knitting grandmother was all it has ever known. The character seems to be out in the world for the first time and crossing a street at the beginning of the demo felt like an utmost ominous task. The music, atmosphere, and Yarnie’s emotion blended perfectly as a sedan nearly ended our journey abruptly.
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Rather than using the beautiful animation we’ve seen in Nintendo’s platformers or the breathtaking colors of the games built in the UbiArt Framework, the gardens and forests of Unravel’s first level were completely realistic. Everything from the vivid greens of the shrubbery to the wet, reflective blacktop of the roads were on par with the work of the industry’s graphical leaders. Those impeccable backdrops combined with the engaging animation of the character and the intriguing gameplay itself seem to be shaping this title into something special.

While I reluctantly decide to continue and play into the idea of the industry’s great divide between Indie and Triple A, dare I say that a game like Unravel looks to marry the two and give us a hybrid that will contribute to the creation of an all inclusive gaming society.

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