There’s just something so very adorable about Yarny, in a way which few videogame characters manage. Made out of a red ball of wool, Yarny’s a lithe little figure, leaving a trail of yarn wherever he goes. It’s this charming character and Creative Director Martin Sahlin’s presence on stage that really captured people’s attention when Unravel was revealed at E3 last year.
Despite having many of the hallmarks of an indie game, it’s actually being backed and published by EA, with a release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on February 9th, next week. However, members of EA Access on Xbox and its new PC counterpart, Origin Access, will be able to sample the first two levels from the game on Thursday 4th February, in what essentially boils down to being a demo for the game.
The game’s opening sees Yarny quite literally spring up out of nowhere, magically forming from a ball of wool which rolls under a chair. Much of what he is and what he represents is left open to you, the player, to interpret, but it’s clear that he is journeying through moments and memories that have been captured by the many photographs that feature in this house. It’s a small hub world for you to clamber around as you look for the next photograph to dive into and relive.
That first level really helps to establish Yarny as a creature that yearns to experience the world around him. His first encounter with a butterfly surprises him, as the insect suddenly takes flight, while the second sees Yarny try to playfully catch the butterfly. It’s these little mannerisms and reactions to the world around him which effortlessly endear him to you.
Getting around the world is rooted in the traditions of the side-scrolling platformer, but the wool that makes up Yarny lends him a number of key abilities. The trail of yarn that’s left behind him can be used as a safety line, so that you can clamber back up an obstacle behind you or abseil down a large drop more cautiously, but you can also throw a line of wool to try and latch onto the marked points in the world, letting you swing back and forth and fling Yarny around the world.
However, you’ll sometimes need to use a little more ingenuity, tying the line of yarn between two points to create an impromptu bridge, which can also be used as a slingshot to reach higher places. It can also be used to create bridges for other objects in the world, and as a puzzle platformer, this often forms a key part of the puzzles that you face. In addition, there’s only so much wool in Yarny’s body, and you’ll occasionally find him literally reaching the end of his tether. At these points, you need to rethink how you’ve navigated the recent level, but also search for a nearby spool of wool, to add to Yarny’s body and let him continue on his journey.
The puzzles in the first two levels might give you pause for thought, but aren’t too difficult. The first acts as a tutorial while the second sees Yarny venture further out into the wilderness, and coming up against a number of dangers. Yarny’s not particularly well equipped to deal with water, but can survive for a few seconds if you’re quick enough to pull him back out by his thread, and if you’re not careful, crabs are eager to scuttle straight towards him, grab a hold and smack him into the floor. There’s a touch of the callous deaths of Limbo, though the game has much more leeway in letting you survive.
It’s all undeniably gorgeous though, with the lazy late summer sun giving the first level a warming tone, which contrasts a little with the harsher light that shines off the sea in the second. There’s a great deal of beauty in the natural world which is captured and is emphasised by the lovely folk inspired soundtrack, but it’s also juxtaposed with touches of humanity’s lasting impact. You’ll interact with bits of rubbish, run across and try to navigate past a ramshackle pier, and so on.
The little points of human influence work on a number of levels against the backdrop of reliving a person’s memories, but it’s all there for you to piece together and decide what it means. Regardless of how you interpret what Yarny sees both in these first two levels and through the rest of the game, his is an adventure that’s grand on a small scale.
Check back tomorrow morning, when we’ll have a video from these early parts of the game, as Jim and I discuss Yarny’s first steps out into the wild.