During their EA Play conference at E3 2015, Electronic Arts announced a new project where they would be publishing a small indie title. Unravel, a strikingly beautiful puzzle platformer, was announced by a visibly shaky Martin Sahlin from Coldwood Interactive on the world stage. The love and passion that had gone into crafting this game was noticeable from the start, and Unravel went on to enjoy a successful launch in February of 2016. The story followed the adventures of a sentient creature made of red thread, known affectionately as Yarny, as they platformed through various scenic landscapes inspired by the rural countryside in Sahlin’s native Sweden. Throughout each chapter the remnants of hazy memories can be glimpsed in the background. The overarching theme is that of binding love, and Yarny’s red thread character design is the symbolism at the center of it all.
The success of Unravel also cemented the full scale launch of the EA Originals program at the following E3, which lead to Electronic Arts throwing their weight behind other indie ventures, such as Fe and the upcoming Sea of Solitude. While there had been no more mention of the Unravel universe itself, the effect of Unravel undeniable. As such, it was no surprise when Electronic Arts returned to the stage for EA Play 2018 and announced that Unravel Two was on the way. What was a surprise, however, is that not only was Unravel Two a game, but it was a completed game that was available to play that very instant. Further still, Unravel Two had another trick up its proverbial sleeve: Co-op.
For Unravel Two, Yarny is no longer bound by thread to the starting destination. Rather, players see the forming of a bond between two Yarny characters which can be used either by a single player or cooperatively with a friend via good old fashioned couch coop. Unfortunately, there’s no online capability for Unravel Two’s coop, which is really the game’s greatest drawback. Though it may otherwise be seen as a testament to the exceptional quality of Unravel Two if the only real complaint is that the experience can’t be shared with even more people. The majority of Unravel Two’s gameplay mechanics are identical to its predecessor’s, so the cooperative aspect of the game is the single biggest shift for the series.
In Unravel, when Yarny attempted to travel too far from the knots that bound them there was an obvious unraveling of the character who would become frail, thin, and eventually be unable to continue forward. A similar mechanic is present in Unravel Two, as the two Yarnys are required to stay a reasonable distance within one another. There’s a limited amount of yarn available to the two protagonists that must be used wisely to overcome obstacles. If either moves too far away from the other, then Yarny becomes unravelled and the players must backtrack to recollect their yarn in order to have enough to move forward. Sticking close to your fellow Yarny is not the only way that gameplay is manipulated by the addition of coop. One of the greatest mechanics to find its way to the Unravel universe is the buddy swing. In the original Unravel, Yarny could tie into a knot and swing himself to overcome a variety of obstacles and puzzles. Now, with a partner in tow, players can have one Yarny stand somewhere safe while their partner dangles below. Overcoming the obstacles is as simple as swinging your partner and properly timing when to release the swing to accomplish maximum momentum, but if you’re going to throw your coop partner across flaming pits it is a good idea to communicate this lest you want to restart your checkpoint.
If you’re concerned that you may not have a coop partner on hand to help you get through Unravel Two, fear not. The entire game can also be played as a single player experience. Players can swap between the characters dynamically to maneuver through the world. For tricky partforming, the game takes pity on players by allowing the inactive Yarny to be picked up for a ‘piggy back ride’. This piggy back mechanic is also available when in coop mode, so if players are attempting to accomplish gold medal speedruns of a chapter it is guaranteed to go more quickly if you’re only requiring the second player to be active during puzzles. Completing the primary experience of Unravel Two and soaking in the story as a single player is viable, but those gold medal speedruns and additional bonus chapters – of which there are 20 – spike dramatically in difficulty if attempting to complete them alone.
Despite the difficulty bump, Unravel Two is an exceptional experience that builds upon the beautiful world we were introduced to in the first game. The addition of coop is masterfully done, and the game feels as if the second Yarny had always been there rather than coming in as a gimmick. With communication and effort the game is easy enough for parents to share with older children, but be warned that the bonus levels, zero death runs, or speedrun attempts can make choosing a younger coop partner exceedingly frustrating. They’re even more frustrating to attempt on your own, however, and as such its a shame that the ability to bring an online friend into your game is not an option.