Unravel Two on the Nintendo Switch Is All About the Power of Cooperation and Creativity

I've been curious about Coldwood Interactive'Unravel since the first game released in 2015, but I never got around to playing it.

As spectacular as the game's visuals looked and as much as I was charmed by the yarn-woven protagonist, it simply didn't stand out to me as a must-play.

When the sequel, Unravel Two, released last year on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I completely missed it. But just last month, the game was ported to the Nintendo Switch, and I was asked to review it. If you know me, you know how much I prefer to play games on the Switch over other consoles, so I eagerly agreed to check out Unravel Two. It was completely worth it.

Unravel 2: Yarnys with birds flying over lake in background

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

Like the original UnravelUnravel Two puts players in control of an adorable knitted character called Yarny. The game opens with Yarny washing ashore on an island after its ship crashes. Things may seem dire, but it's not long before it stumbles upon a fellow Yarny and makes a friend that will play a crucial role along every step of its journey.

Unravel 2 - Yarny finds its friend

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

Double the Yarnys doesn't just mean double the cuteness. It also means that the gameplay is fundamentally changed, because rather than controlling just one yarn critter, players take control of them both. Both Yarnys become linked by a long, thin thread, and though they're essentially interchangeable, the efforts of both characters are needed to solve most puzzles and tear down most obstacles.

At first glance, Unravel Two may look like a standard platformer that primarily revolves around running and jumping, but thanks to its unique heroes, it's a lot more than that. Because they're made of yarn, Yarnys can do things that most other video game protagonists can't. For example, they can tie onto certain ledges with a bit of their string and pull themselves up, connect two platforms to build bouncy bridges or hook onto pivot points to Tarzan-swing across chasms.

Unravel 2 - Helping hand with a climb

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

The Yarnys' abilities come in handy in a number of physics-based puzzles and scenarios. Sometimes, one must tie onto a branch and use its weight to pull it back, creating a bridge for the other. Once one Yarny gets to the top of a high ledge, it can act as a weight and allow the other Yarny to climb up to it, or even serve as a pivot point for a swinging Yarny below. Getting to understand how every trick in the Yarny arsenal works is one of the greatest pleasures of Unravel Two, and the game felt best when I was met with a challenge and finding the solution made me feel clever.

Unravel 2 - Cooperation, swinging from stick

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

That's doesn't mean they'll always be apart. With the press of a button, the two can meld together into a single dual-toned Yarny that's just as agile as either Yarny. When the time comes to separate again, you simply push the button again. The Yarnys are also peaceful beings, so in the face of enemies, there's not much they can do but act defensively. Thankfully, the Yarnys are quite good at running and hiding.

Unravel 2 - Yarnys melded together

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

Though each level, or chapter, takes a while to complete, I never thought that any of them felt tedious or overstayed their welcome. Not only is each area uniquely themed and beautifully designed, but I felt I was constantly being rewarded for each bit of progress. At each step of the way, a shining orb of light traced a path and showed me exactly where I needed to go, and each time I reached it, it would float away yet again toward my next destination. By breaking down everything into smaller tasks, even the longest and toughest of areas never felt too daunting.

unravel-2-running-from-fire-040319

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

The game eases players in at first with levels that don't feature any enemies or real perils. As time continues, that changes, with burning balls of flame, bottomless pits and rampaging grouse threatening to send you back to the last glowing checkpoint.

Unravel 2 - Running away from scary grouse bird

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

And Unravel Two gets tough. Whenever a new hurdle shows up, it takes some real thought, and sometimes trial and error, to work your way over it. New uses of the Yarnys' abilities are added consistently up until the very end of the game. I'm not ashamed to admit that on a couple of occasions, I wasn't too proud to make use of the game's handy and accessible hint system, which provides tips for making it through most of its tricky sections. The game also has an option to slow down time to make some challenges easier to beat, but I never had much of a use for this feature.

Unravel 2 - Help menu screen

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

The game succeeds when it makes you think, which is why my favorite levels were actually the hidden bonus stages. Most of these areas take place on a single screen and don't look too challenging at first, but are actually some of the trickiest puzzles and platforming stages in the game. Some have left me completely stumped, but that's why they're so satisfying. Plus, you rescue a brand new Yarny at the end of each one.

Unravel 2 - Rescuing third yarny bonus level

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

Unravel Two also looks incredible. I know that it probably looks even better on the more powerful consoles, but when I'm playing a game, I care more about the feelings I get from the visuals than I do about graphical fidelity. The yarn characters are so charming and have a certain magic to them that makes them feel even more whimsical against realistic environments.  As the Yarnys progressed through the world, I really feel like I was sending them on a journey through a 3D space, despite the totally 2D nature of the gameplay.

Unravel 2 - Yarns traveling by swan

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

The powerful sights, sounds and movement of the environment,  make the game even more immersive. I always felt that the Yarnys had real weight within their world and that they made an impact there. In other games, it can sometimes feel that characters stumble through the world without leaving their mark, but the way the levels crumble and break and shift around the Yarnys makes them appear more much real.

While the game has some narrative, it mostly unfolds in the form of background scenes featuring ghost-like human characters each going through their own struggles. Sometimes, it seems their conflicts manifest as physical blocks to the Yarnys' path, but through progress, the Yarnys help them work through their most troubling times. Though these moments are vague and sometimes strikingly dark, they do serve as further motivation to help the heroes along on their journey. This story won't work for everyone, but because it's up to interpretation, it isn't too much of a distraction, either.

Unravel 2 - Ghost people narrative

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

The game also boasts a two-player mode, and while I haven't yet had the chance to play it, the whole game feels like it was created with the potential for cooperative play in mind. I anticipate that with the right communication, playing with two players rather than one would allow you to get through the game in a fraction of the time. I also appreciate games that allow asymmetrical co-op. For example, you might be able to play this game with a younger sibling, a parent or a friend who isn't all that good at gaming, and you'd be able to make it through to the end because of the unique style of gameplay.

Unravel 2 - Reaching end of level

(Unravel 2 via Electronic Arts)

I also loved the customization available within the game. You can adjust the yarn color, as well as the head, eye and body shapes of both Yarnys. The options are somewhat limited at first, but every bonus level you complete grants you the ability to design a Yarny just like the one you've rescued. While you're free to pick from a number of cute colors when you're designing your Yarnys, I recommend picking bright, contrasting colors, as they make it easier to see what you're doing, and also help you spot yarn tethers against the organically designed backgrounds.

Unravel Two has that special something that makes it more satisfying than most platformers I've played with jumps that feel solid and precise, and the majority of obstacles requiring a strong understanding of the game's mechanics and some logic to make it through them, rather than sheer brute force. The Unravel series may not reinvent the puzzle platformer, but with its smart use of its characters abilities, its games are a new and worthy addition to the genre.

The game is available on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch for $19.99.

 

If you love mind-bending puzzle games, click HERE for my review of the wonderful She Remembered Caterpillars.