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Review: Unravel Two: Co-op Platforming Done Right

Screenshot: Unravel Two

The existence of Unravel Two isn’t a surprise—it’s the natural follow-up to 2016’s cute puzzle platformer—but its sudden announcement at this year’s E3 along with the news that Unravel Two was available immediately was definitely a surprise. I wasted no time grabbing my co-op partner and diving into the shoes of Yarny and co.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

Unravel Two starts with Yarny being tossed from a boat, breaking his yarn source, and landing himself on an unknown shore where he meets up with another yarn-creature. It turns out Yarny isn’t the only small yarn-based humanoid in existence! Yarny and friend team up by literally joining themselves together at the yarn.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

In Unravel Two your goal is to jump, lasso, and swing Yarny and friend through each level to reach the end goal. Each beautiful, almost photo realistic level contains a multitude of platforming situations, puzzles, hazards and sometimes even enemies to avoid. There isn’t combat—Yarny and friend are total pacifists (being made of yarn also makes them pretty fragile), and can only run from danger, or avoid it entirely. Yarn people, luckily, can use their yarn appendages like grappling hooks to climb or swing at designated locations.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

The puzzles in Unravel Two are great. Most of them are physics based, and require cooperation between the two yarn people. Some require you to push your partner onto a higher ledge while they pull you up using the yarn afterwards. Others require precision jumping and timing. While Unravel Two works great as a platformer, it’s at its best when using the yarn mechanic in interesting ways—like tying a stick down to use as a catapult, or having to hold your dangling partner over certain death as you navigate them to safety.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

The thing that sets Unravel Two apart from most other puzzle platformers is the fact that Yarny is attached to his partner via a set length of yarn. This opens up not only a bunch of different ways to interact with the world’s puzzles, but it also makes navigating without getting tangled sometimes tricky. Puzzles, of course, are deliberately designed to tangle up the yarn duo, so care must be taken.  Yarn length is adjustable, and you can also use it as a rope to pull your partner up. This can be done to help a friend who can’t complete a puzzle, or even save a falling friend from certain death. The way the yarn works is able to be set in the options menu to allow greater flexibility in its usage at the cost of increased partner coordination.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

While you can play Unravel Two solo, I definitely recommend playing this with someone else. While it’s serviceable and fun alone, playing solo can sometimes feel tedious. In solo mode you have to constantly switch between yarn people to get puzzles solved, instead of naturally working with a partner. In fact, it seems like Unravel Two is intended to be played cooperatively. Too bad two player mode is only local—you can’t play with friends online.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

Unravel Two is a very pretty game that sometimes borders on photorealism. Except for a slightly odd looking (and hostile) turkey, everything from the animations to the backgrounds looks great.  Each level is packed with details in such a convincing manner that it gives you that feels of navigating fragile yarn people through sometimes dangerous, but always visually interesting environments.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

There is a sort of story to Unravel Two, but it remains a mystery to me. Though the gameplay centers on the yarn duo, the background will sometimes show two kids who appear to be running from evil people. Or something.  Some of the environments hint at something more sinister, but what that is was never made clear and seems open to interpretation.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

Each of the levels you can play is accessible through a lighthouse that serves as a central hub and means of going back and replaying older levels. Each floor of the lighthouse also has a series of challenge levels. These levels are usually based on the same encounters and puzzles from the normal levels on that same floor, but their difficulty is amped up considerably. These challenge levels increase Unravel Two’s content a ton, and successfully manage to balance hard and fun.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

Unravel Two is such a charming game, I have few real complaints. The tutorial was a little unclear at first as it requires you to perform certain actions before continuing, and in our excitement, we were missing the small text box with instructions. We did run into one bug—after completing a puzzle, a cutscene didn’t trigger properly, trapping us in place. Reloading our save fixed the problem, luckily.

Screenshot: Unravel Two

Unravel Two is great. It’s a fun puzzle platformer with a neat premise and satisfying yarn mechanics. The puzzles even managed to stump us once or twice. And while the platforming gets a little hard, it’s approachable to those who may not play games as often.  The challenge levels also add a good amount of fun, challenging content. I definitely recommend this, especially with a friend.

Unravel Two is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows via Origin.

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