EA Unravels a Heartfelt Indie-like Yarn

Unravel is perhaps the surprise sleeper hit of all of E3 this year.

With a similar indie vibe to Ubisoft’s Grow Home from earlier in the year, Unravel comes from EA and 14 person Swedish game studio Coldwood. The game is a side-scrolling physics platformer starring Yarny, an adorable little chap made from a single strand of woolen yarn. The thread of yarn will unravel as you move through the world, and if yarn runs out Yarny will unravel, and you won’t be able to progress any further. Consequently, the objective of the game will be to make it from beginning to end on that single thread, figuring out ways to get from point A to point B without leaving behind a tangled mess of wasted yarn.

As Yarny, you will explore environments based on authentic Northern Scandinavia locales and solve puzzles, using the strand of yarn to grapple swing across gaps, build tightrope bridges, rappel down trees, drag heavy objects, hook up to a kite for an aerial ride, or go river rafting by latching onto a fish’s fin to have it pull you across the water.


Of course, Unravel isn’t just a game about a cute yarn doll and some clever environment exploration. There is a deeper meaning to the story that aims to tug at the heartstrings. From an introductory letter by Coldwood Creative Director Martin Sahlin posted on the game’s official website:

The way I see it, games are really powerful. They reach so many people, and they have the ability to truly captivate the audience in a way that few other art forms can. As a game maker, that makes me feel a certain responsibility. I don’t want to make games that are just distractions. Time is worth more than that. I want to give players more meaningful experiences instead. Unravel™ was created in that spirit. I wanted to make something more personal, something with more impact. The game didn’t have to change the world, or even try, but it had to be genuine, it had to have a deeper meaning. It had to have heart.

Unravel is a physics-based puzzle platformer where you play a little character made of yarn. The yarn unravels as you move, and if you run out of yarn you can’t go on. Your goal is to try to make that yarn reach all the way through the game, from start to finish. The yarn is quite literally the red thread that ties everything together.

That led to the creation of the game character, a little being made of yarn who unravels the farther away it gets from the things that it loves. The idea kept growing, and the yarn came to represent love, the bond between people. The story would be about Yarny (the little yarn character) trying to mend a broken bond, trying to help a lonely old woman reconnect with all that she has lost.

I created Yarny while I was on a camping trip with my family, way out in the countryside. I was asked to explain more about “the yarn game”, and I figured the best way to do that would be to act it out. So I created a little poseable Yarny doll from some old metal wire I found and some yarn that I borrowed. Then I wandered around in the woods, putting Yarny in different situations and snapping pictures, figuring out fun things you could do with that yarn. The local nature was a huge inspiration, so I decided that nature should play a big part in the game too. All the levels are based on environments from northern Sweden, places with their own little histories and special importance.

The gameplay is all about overcoming obstacles, both big and small. Some challenges are simple, like using your yarn to swing across a gap, or rappelling down a tree. Sometimes things get more complex, so complex that when you look back at the tangled, winding weave of yarn that’s left behind you, you have to wonder how you even got to where you’re at. A bit like life, I guess.

More than anything, Unravel really seems to capture the same sense of handcrafted charm and wonderment as games like LittleBigPlanet, Puppeteer, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. I enjoy all of the AAA blockbusters and dark and gritty shooters as much as anyone, but it’s titles like this that truly remind me why I fell in love with video games.

Unravel is in development for PC (via Origin), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One digital download. A release date has not yet been announced.








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