Three years ago, we all watched as a nervous but earnest Martin Sahlin presented Unravel during the EA E3 Press Conference. When the game was released the following year, I found Yarny’s adventure through the memories a profoundly moving, singular experience. It felt that the developers had said what they had to say. Fast forward two years and three press conferences later, and note my utter amazement when not only a sequel is announced but released the same day.
So, how do you do a sequel to a game about a memory loss and yarn people? Well, by apparently leaning hard into the two part. Unravel Two opens on a boat with our pal Yarny (I am not 100% sure if that is the official spelling, but it’s what we are going with) just hanging out. Whose boat? No idea, but it doesn’t matter right now because a storm rolls in, bad stuff happens, and suddenly Yarny is string deep in ocean water, literally pouring his everything into keeping himself attached to the boat. His string and my heart break. He's lost to the waves.
Washed up on some shore, Yarny wakes up less then he was, but immediately finds a suitcase… AND ANOTHER YARNY. He’s blue, and his head looks like a wicked pair of demon horns, so I’m calling him Ozzy for ease of reference. Ozzy is also slightly broken, but through the magic of crafts, I guess, the two yarn people join together at their frayed ends. And so starts the tutorial.
Together, Yarny and Ozzy are capable of some pretty incredible stuff. The first Unravel was chock full of Yarny using his yarn bits to climb, jump, swing, and tie his way through some of the most important memories of its owner’s life. Unravel Two expands on this same concept, with Yarny and Ozzy exploring the memories of a pair of young teenagers on the run from a group of people who, I can only imagine because it’s never really explained, are some really bad dudes. Each memory takes place in a different environment, and while they are not quite as diverse as the range covered in the first game, the levels of Unravel Two look absolutely stunning.
Using their yarn to traverse the area, Yarny and Ozzy platform and solve minor puzzles. While the game is playable in co-op, with each player claiming their own yarn person, it’s also perfectly playable by yourself. In fact, having played the majority of it that way, controlling Yarny and Ozzy both separate and together, is a downright joy. A single button push brings the two characters together to make general moving around quick and easy, while another push separates the two.
When separated, both Yarny and Ozzy act as anchor points, capable of keeping pushable objects still on inclines, locking down movable pieces with their yarn, and acting as a mobile grapple point for swinging. This is, by far, the coolest mechanic added into the game, giving some needed complexity and a bit of silliness to the movement related puzzles. Most involve getting both characters to a single point, but some, about once a chapter, revolve around Yarny and Ozzy getting to two specific points separately to unlock a memory. Swinging and jumping feel fantastic and fluid, with some bonus points given on my part for being able to swing so fast that you can pull off a loop.
Working through the seven main chapters, I ran into only one puzzle that caused me to pause and stare at the screen. I could see what I needed to do, as the shifting gears on screen meant that two pieces had to come together, but the coloring of the room itself made it seem like I couldn’t get past this one movable piece of the puzzle that was attached to the ground. Thankfully, this is the only time it happened, as the rest of the game features very clear clues that draw your eyes to where they need to go. Need to move a brick to get by a wall? The brick is colored just slightly lighter than the other bricks. Need to climb on a can to get on top of something else? The can stands out from the background, a huge change from Unravel where the items you needed tended to just blend right into the scenery.
And that scenery is beautiful. Regardless of what you thought about the gameplay of Unravel, it was indisputably gorgeous, and part two continues down that graphics rabbit hole. Yarny and Ozzy look amazing, with the yarn itself really standing out. It wraps, snags, and holds like a slightly stronger version than the real thing, and the look of the two characters mixed together when they carry each other, with their individual threads mingling together, is so cool to watch.
What doesn’t mingle so well is the actual story of Unravel Two. While the first game’s narrative never had a defined story, there was enough present to not only interpret but attach to, which made it feel effective. Two leans into the togetherness aspect, with the actions of Yarny and Ozzy often mirroring the memories of teens working together to get through… whatever it is they are getting through. It’s clear that they are on the run from some bad folks, with the memories of them often colored in shades of grey, but there's little to no connection, from what I can tell, between the lighthouse hub space and the kids, beyond them maybe having stayed their at the end of one of the memories. This lack of cohesion detracts slightly from the overall product, but the amount of fun I had traversing the world ended up really carrying that load.
I also feel like the developers kind of knew this, as completing each memory chapter unlocks a whole sequence of bonus challenge rooms. Completing them unlocks Yarn customization options, allowing you to mix and match your choice of yarn head, color, and even torso length, with the longer one appearing as a kind of skirt, which I guess makes Ozzy an Ozzirita - which is kind of more awesome. Each memory level also has a few collectibles to grab hold of, as well as medals for completing them without dying and at a fast pace.
So what does all this mean? Frankly, Unravel Two is honestly just as enjoyable as the first Unravel, only instead of leaning heavily on the feels from a story perspective, it has upped the quality of its platforming. I would have loved for them to have found a way to highlight both sides of the equation, but based on my 4-5 hours of playtime, if one side had to fall even a little, they chose the right one. Unravel Two is a glorious little game and you’ll be better off having played it than not.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!