The Game of The Year Awards is always a big deal in the gaming community. Everyone picks their favorite game out of the nominee lists and roots for it non-stop. This year, the innovative MOBA shooter Overwatch took home the title beating out several good running mates. While I agree Overwatch is a phenomenal game and understand why it won, the spot in my heart belongs to a game that sadly skipped a lot of gamer’s consoles: Unravel. I held back from reviewing Unravel with every site I worked with waiting to be able to talk about it in an article like this, so come discover this game with me now!

It Had Me at Unravel

Unravel was a game that was digital only, made by a new studio, and was overshadowed by bigger titles. This, of course, hurt its chance of ever really being noticed by a wide enough audience to gain the same recognition as the Game of the Year nominees this year.  I am glad I went ahead with my instinct and pre-ordered the game to make sure I remembered it.  Thankfully the game itself has kept me from forgetting it for the rest of the year. As a journalist, I play a lot of major and non-major releases, and Unravel has stuck in my head over all of the other games this year for many reasons, including:

  • Innovative Gameplay
  • Art Direction
  • Soundtrack
  • Story
  • Design

Each of these categories pulled the game together to create a memorable and fun experience that transcended the line between art and games.

Experience Matters

Games, as with any media, are a hit or miss situation when it comes to telling a story. It’s hard to find a bridge to communicate with that a wide range of players can all grasp onto and understand. Because of this, it’s hard to have a character that can relate to the masses or even that is liked by them.  Yarny is a silent character, which allows for players to focus more on the overall narrative of the game rather than Yarny himself. Yarny actually becomes more of a game mechanic than a character at certain points. This is hammered in with the ever changing art style to fit and express the tone of each situation and level you venture into.

Unravel in its core gameplay is very puzzle-focused, allowing for a constant sense of accomplishment with each finished puzzle. The puzzles are tricky, but nothing out of the realm of impossible or so overly complicated the average gamer would be stumped for hours. Each puzzle is well balanced, making the gradual spike in difficulty after each one feel invited. While I can’t say you will not get frustrated at a few parts, the game’s “ah-ha” moments will bring you a feeling of satisfaction afterward.

Yarny is Art

While playing Unravel you will find that the core values of the game have to do with connection.  The game tells a tale of an old woman’s life in a very gentle way. As Yarny, you travel through environments to find lost pieces of yarns that represent pieces the woman created throughout her lifetime. At the end of each chapter you bring the piece home to put on a memory book which unlocks a little of the story behind the piece (and it will break your heart).  The beautiful thing about this game is it doesn’t use dramatics to summon emotion from its players, and instead weaves a relatable tale that many of us have experienced parts of in our own lives.

Yarny will lead you through beautifully rendered environments that all focus on the natural beauty of the world. As you travel the puzzles, which you complete using thread, Yarny will unravel bit by bit until you reach the finishing piece and he can return home.  The game takes its musical score seriously as well, blending perfect harmonies in with the world around you, in sync with the events that unfold perfectly. The team behind it wanted the music to convey the words that don’t exist between the characters into your heart.

Rounding it up

Unravel is a game that made me tear up by the end, by making a very relatable story. While I had fun with Overwatch, enjoyed the Horizon events of Australia, and had fun exploring Alola, these games didn’t touch me on a deeper level.  Unravel used all of its elements to create beautifully rendered stages with one of the best soundtracks of the year. The game also gives you a fair amount of secrets to find along with replay value for most of the stages.  The puzzles were fleshed out and balanced with a slow climb in difficulty that eased players up with every finished mystery. On top of all this the game is only $19.99 USD The fact that it was made by a gaming newcomer shows how far games have the potential to go no matter how they begin.