Unravel is a 2D platformer featuring a cute character. Created by a small outfit based on the northeastern coast of Sweden, it's being published by Electronic Arts.
There are three noteworthy aspects to Unravel, the first being a basic mechanic of guiding a central character whose body carries both the means to progress and a potentially fatal flaw. Yarny is made of twine and unravels as it moves, creating lines that players must use cleverly in order to solve the physical puzzles that impede progression. Loss of too much twine leads to an ultimate unraveling.
Secondly, this is a platformer with a big, mushy story that seeks to tug at those heartstrings. It is a game that seeks meaning in the physicality of its own setup.
Finally, it is a game about place. Northern Sweden is a land of rock, moss, running water, clear skies and wintry trees. It is probably unlike the place where you live. This primal environment is heavily plundered for Unravel's backgrounds and puzzles.
Developer Coldwood Interactive's previous work includes The Fight: Lights Out, a pretty bad PlayStation Move combat game and the forgettable Ski-Doo Snowmobile Challenge. But Unravel showed enough promise for Stockholm-based DICE (owned by Electronic Arts) to arrange for a publishing deal with EA.
Based on a demo being shown at E3, this is a likeable game with some promise, assuming the twine-based puzzles offer enough variety and fun.
"Everyone at EA is so genuinely into this," said Coldwood's Martin Sahlin in an interview with Polygon. "It would be easy to think they are being cynical and just saying, 'oh, let's try to be indie,' but it's not like that. It feels like more like dealing with people who genuinely like the game."
So, what is it that is unique and interesting about that stringy mechanic? "It's always fun to play with physics," said Sahlin. "It's not just about solving puzzles. It's also a big part of how you move. Sometimes it's just traversing, navigating. Since you always leave this trail behind you, you can always grab it and climb on it and swing on it. You can do these really cool things when you combine stuff.
"Let's say you attach yourself somewhere, like you're mountaineering. If you anchor yourself you can jump off and grab the rope in mid-air and just change your momentum so you can swing in under something. It allows you to grab the next thing. You get this real flow going."
Sahlin said that Coldwood's hometown of Umea, Sweden, is a big inspiration for the game. "We live in the sticks. It's a very small town, very far north, close to the Arctic circle. There's not a lot of people, but a whole lot of countryside. I wanted to share some of that, some of the places that I love. I think you don't really see enough of that in video games. You tend to see more fantastical stuff."