A couple of years ago amid the corporate monstrosity that is EA’s annual Press Conference, the mega-publisher announced a new program called EA Originals. This initiative would be one where the company gets behind smaller studios and development teams to help bring their games to market. So far we’ve had a few good ones. A Way Out, Fe, and Unravel have all been received pretty well in the last few years. Coldwood’s original Unravel game saw a great critical response when it released in 2016, with critics praising things like its visual and audio presentation as well as puzzle-based gameplay.
Announced to release on the spot, Unravel 2 was revealed and released during EA’s 2018 Press Conference. Coldwood has made some improvements here, namely in adding cooperative gameplay and puzzles to the game. However, this co-op aspect seems to be traded in for a bit of the warmth and charm that the original had. Unravel 2 features more content than the previous game with a 4-5 hour main path, as well as additional challenge missions and collectibles to find. The game features cooperative gameplay whether playing by yourself or with one other person locally. That means that you can either play by yourself, controlling two Yarny characters or have one person controlling each.
The story on this journey is once again very much up for interpretation but it all comes back to the cooperative base for the game. There’s a theme that’s trying to be established here. As the two Yarny characters, you’ll be following the progress of two human apparitions and trying to help them bypass monsters made of negative emotions. To do this you’ll need to use the Yarny characters in tandem to cooperatively connect sparks that banish the evil beings. That’s really all there is to it. There’s no spoken dialogue here, just some imagery to let you draw your own conclusions. The main path adventure of Unravel Two can be completed in a single sitting and in that sitting there are very few memorable moments in the game due to levels that feel very similar to one another.
The puzzle solving has changed significantly from the first game as the gameplay has changed. Whether playing by yourself or with another person you are controlling two Yarny characters that are tethered by Yarn. You can control each one independently to solve more complex puzzles that require you use a swinging, grappling, and bouncing mechanics to traverse an area, or you can mash the two characters together for platforming style segments in the game. The puzzles in the main path story are not what I would consider difficult, they can be completed at fairly brisk pace with very little thought. This makes for a casual, stress free experience where you can take in the sights and sounds of the game. The visuals and audio in Unravel 2 are once again top notch, though a little more variety would’ve been nice in the visuals and interaction in the levels themselves. There are some standout moments like a massive hen chasing you down, a giant pike chasing you as you jump from lily pad to lily pad on a lake.
There are some negatives to the story mode for the game. It’s kind of short. The story is incredibly ambiguous. It lacks its own memorable levels. Despite this there are plenty of unique puzzles in the 4-5 hour experience, though the game rarely throws up much of a challenge to you. When it does, the checkpointing is such that you’ll never really feel like you’ve lost any progress. Like the original, Unravel Two does have some trial and error spots, and these usually come in when the game goes into platforming mode. If thinking outside the box is your thing, Unravel 2 offers some pretty great cooperative gameplay that’ll require two players to work together to progress. It’s equally satisfying on the solo front in controlling both characters, and might be the easier way to play the game.
For those looking for a more challenging experience there are Challenge Missions for the game. These areas open up in a Lighthouse hub world and can be accessed at any time. They are completely unique areas in terms of design and objectives. These play a stark contrast to the story levels in terms of difficulty and will take a significant amount of trial and error to complete. The rewards are unlockables to customize the Yarny character. Players can choose different looks for the character in terms of the actual geometry and color of Yarny. Personally, I would’ve rather seen a couple more of the handcrafted story missions as the challenges are more frustration inducing than any other part of the game and it’s really unclear what actual benefit there is to customizing Yarny as there aren’t any game-changing effects. Still if you enjoy the gameplay for Unravel Two, you can master that with these Challenge areas.
Unravel Two is in somewhat of weird spot. It has a lot to live up to in terms of the original and I don’t think it does. While it tries to follow a similar pattern, it doesn’t have the charm of the first game. For someone coming directly to Unravel Two without playing the original, I could see the game seeming like a generic puzzle platformer. That said, there’s still plenty to appreciate here as Unravel Two offers a new type of cooperative experience and retains all the great visual and audio presentation from the original.
Unravel isn’t a game that necessarily needed a second game in the franchise to solidify its legacy. The new ideas found in Unravel Two could have very well been a brand new franchise in itself as the inclusion of cooperative gameplay and challenge levels seems to have led to a lack of charm in this follow-up.
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Developed By: Coldwood
- Genre: Puzzle Platformer
- US Release Date: June 9th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Cooperative gameplay and challenge levels seems to have led to a lack of charm in this follow-up. "