I’ve had my fair share of wonderful memories handing a Joy-Con controller to my wife and enjoying a game together. Co-op games are well-suited to the Nintendo Switch, and Swedish developer Coldwood and EA’s Unravel Two is no exception. The puzzle-platformer costars sentient yarn creatures called Yarny, who can, fittingly, be customized and color-coded to match the Switch’s Joy-Con colors.
You don’t need any prior familiarity with the original Unravel to appreciate the sequel. It’s worth noting that, true to its name, Unravel Two’s major upgrade allows players to control two Yarnies. As they are bound together by a yarn string, they cannot stray far from one another. While this may sound limiting, their versatile fabric strand enables them to get across obstacles. Both characters can use yarn as a lasso, a swing, or a trampoline-like bridge. Every puzzle tasks players to cleverly utilize their single strand and interact with the impressively huge environment to help both Yarnies reach shiny sparks.
The theme is teamwork. Sometimes there isn’t an object to grab, so you may need to use one Yarny as a fulcrum while the other swings off of its partner. The strongest puzzles highlight cooperation and emphasize the importance of what you loop your yarn string across. Despite this, there are multiple areas where the solution only requires one Yarny reaching a certain point while the other… waits. The idle Yarny can then rappel up to its companion using the conjoined string. As such, many of the earlier puzzles only require one player to do most of the legwork, which kind of throws the “co-op” feature under the bus. Of course, this makes Unravel Two an excellent candidate for playing alongside younger or less-skilled gamers.
In general, two-player is the ideal way to experience Unravel Two, and synergized movement helps during later segments that ask for more synchronicity. The gameplay is relaxed enough that I also found value simply in talking through puzzles with my partner and working them out together. However, as not everyone can take advantage of the local-only multiplayer, it’s convenient that Unravel Two is completely playable in single-player. Aside from some possibly tougher moments towards the end, there is no major technical downside to going solo. You can freely switch between Yarnies, and in most puzzles, moving one at a time is sufficient. For more action-based segments, you can ravel the two characters together into a single Yarny, whether playing co-op or solo.
Having one combined Yarny streamlines the platformer portions, which I appreciate are occasionally fast-paced albeit the game’s slower puzzle nature. Most of these sections incorporate the Yarny’s lasso mechanics, leading to kinetic swinging sequences reminiscent of Spider-Man or Donkey Kong Country. Other segments feature enemies, but should you die at any point, you’ll return to one of the many frequent checkpoints. My favorite chapter involved a giant bird chasing our yarn heroes, forcing the two to distract the feathery fiend, solve puzzles, and swing like a bionic commando just to survive.
With seven linear levels, the campaign isn’t long and will run most players about five to six hours. Most of that time will likely be spent on the tricky final puzzles. The story mode’s first half has fairly simple brain teasers, but difficulty rises progressively towards the latter half, where I found myself stumped during certain parts. It rarely took me more than about 10-15 minutes to get past a section, especially since some solutions tend to repeat along the way. But for those newer to the genre, there is a tiered hint system in place. The first two optional clues guide the player, and the final hint offers a step-by-step walkthrough. Overall, I was pleased with the difficulty balance. For those seeking a harder experience, there are also 20 additional challenges that range from advanced puzzles to devious platforming sections. These single-screen trials significantly increase the replay value, just on account of how hard they are. Replaying chapters to locate hidden collectibles and attempting no-death speed-runs are also options for the hardcore, though it’s not a feat that will appeal to everyone.
I can’t finish without praising the presentation. The Yarnies are small creatures, and thus run through their relatively gigantic environment like a pair of Pikmin. The photorealistic graphics lend a natural larger-than-life feel, and brilliant lighting makes the scenery pop off the screen. You even witness a story unfold between two kids who are trying to escape from adults. It’s a vague plot told through transparent ephemeral images and lacking any dialogue, but I was legitimately surprised to find any semblance of narrative.
It’s worth noting that you can optimize the game for either graphics or performance. I preferred graphics as the game rarely slowed down despite its lower frame rate, and the visuals look hideous in performance mode, more so when the Switch is undocked. Finally, the soundtrack comprised of masterful Celtic folk music is utterly lovely. The well-composed songs, combined with the Yarnies’ story, left me emotional by the end.
Unravel Two is a game with many layers. On the surface lies a cooperative puzzle-platformer about two adorable yarn creatures. Underneath are meaningful narratives about escaping to safety and working together to form a brighter future. Even deeper are bittersweet and heartfelt messages about companionship, love, and the ties that bind. Coldwood’s little game about two tiny Yarnies on a grand adventure has an astounding depth that is fun to unravel.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!