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Game Review

For those who loved the puzzles and fleecy sweetness of 2016's Unravel, the gamemakers at Coldwood Interactive have knitted together a cozy sequel. Only this time, you have two tiny tangle-of-yarn heroes to guide through a big, dangerous world.

I guess that makes sense in a game titled Unravel Two.

Similarities abound between the first game's worsted-wool adventure and this one. But don't expect the same ol' ball of yarn: This sequel offers a number of new tangles to work through.

Follow That Light, Yarny!

The first game in this series focused on a soft and colorful little guy named Yarny, who could magically step into the scrapbook-photo memories of an elderly woman. And while using the twine of his own body to make his way past puzzles and environmental challenges of garden and forest snapshots, Yarny slowly helped players knit-and-purl together a poignant story involving family, love and loss.

This latest game starts with a completely new Yarny-like pal. This guy's just as lovable and fuzzy, but he's not a picture-hopper this time. Instead, he follows a spark of guiding light and jumps through what amount to magical portals in the air. And, as I said, he's not alone. After getting caught up in something of a shipwreck at sea, the yarn guy washes up on shore and stumbles upon another similar character who climbs out of a waterlogged valise. The two become fast friends, link their different colored strands together and set off to explore as a team.

The world our tiny entwined protagonists swing and climb through is a huge place. It's made up of well-defined, beautifully rendered forests, rivers and glades. These twiny heroes also journey across rainy village rooftops, as well as making their way through a factory full of mechanized coal-and-fire dangers.

Behind our yarn guys, we also spot memory-like wisps—almost ghostly vignettes that unspool a human tale of two childhood friends who help each other out of problematic situations.

And that is this game's theme through both story and gameplay: We all need friends who help.

I Gotcha, Kid.

You can play the game solo, but it really works best as a co-op contest in which two players each grab a controller, hit the couch, and tackle its tasks and puzzles as a team. And there are lots of those: Unravel Two has been populated with seven giant-sized levels of obstacles that require some real tag-team play.

One player might be an anchor on a teetering branch, for instance, while the other swings his or her way out over a large gap of water to grab a log on the other side. Or each player might act as a counterweight to the other in order to operate a piece of machinery, or use the extended yarn between them as a bridge to transport a useful item.

That said, you can only unroll a limited length of yarn between your two wooly avatars before their spooled essence runs out. So your interplay with a partner is a constant conversational patter of, "Haul me up," "No, try to go through that pipe over there," "Grab that hook, and I'll pull," or, "I need to move closer to you." Thus, the game encourages teamwork as players strategize, cooperate and communicate almost continually.

The game's wonderful little puzzles also challenge teams of two to rely on each player's potentially different gaming strengths when mastering various obstacles. Someone with better hand-eye coordination might be best to deal with a particularly dexterous challenge. In another, someone with the patience to wait and figure out a specific moving pattern might win the day.

That flexibility also makes this a pretty cool tag-team title for parents and kiddos. Dad might focus on the toughest puzzle solving, while junior plays the primary push-that-thing-over-there role in each challenge. Or maybe Mom might hang back and toss out a clue or two until her young partner figures out a needed rappel-down-that-ledge move all on her own.

The Ties That Bind Two

Speaking of clues, the game also has a new system for helping players through its tougher platforming challenges. A simple button push will dole out stitch-in-time suggestions to get you through the difficult spots. And if you do accidentally tumble into a burning fire or stumble off into some other dangerous places that tiny yarn balls probably shouldn't go, your little guys just puff out of existence and start that section over, fresh and unsinged.

I must admit, I didn't think the story's morals this time around were as compelling or thoughtfully woven together as the previous game's lessons. The human side of the tale is definitely wispier here.

But Unravel Two still delivers a nice nod to the bonds of love and friendship. And when it comes to lessons on having fun and working together, well, it's gameplay feels as warm and snuggly as your favorite oversized sweater on a blustery winter's day.

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Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC


Electronic Arts


June 9, 2018

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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