Review by Alyx Jones
Developer: Coldwood Interactive
Composers: Frida Johansson, Henrik Oja
Sound Design: Håkan Dalsfelt
Reviewed on: Playstation 4
Unravel is an absolutely stunning, puzzle platformer by Coldwood Interactive, that features the little knitted character Yarny, as we travel through incredibly beautiful environments and memories from the family that made us. It explores subjects around families and issues around the destruction of the natural environment. We slowly unravel as we progress through the levels and need to find ways to reach our goals, using the least amount of wool. Our yarn is our superpower and we can use it to swing from trees, to make bridges and even to catapult ourselves to higher ground. It is such a visually striking game that takes care to match this visual aesthetic, closely with the audio.
The music, composed by Frida Johansson and Henrik Oja, is focused more around organic instruments (rather than electronic sounds) to reflect the places we visit throughout the game. Gameplay is mostly set outside, in nature, so it makes perfect sense to use real instruments to reflect the natural elements, away from technology. There are certainly places where gameplay becomes darker and takes place partly within machines, with the music naturally changes to reflect this. Without giving too much away, the game starts off in many beautiful environments, accompanied by a folky soundtrack, strongly featuring instruments such as violins, acoustic guitars and hand drums, but with an atmospheric backdrop created with strong reverbs. As the mood changes, the balance of natural instruments is brought down to give way to stronger soundscapes, and the destruction of the world around. It’s a very touching and deep soundtrack, a perfect partner to the visuals.
For this game, sound design was incredibly important. Without the rich audio tapestries, that bring the game to life, it would be a very different experience. Thinking about the outdoors, includes all the evocative sounds: the wind through the trees, the rushing of water and the various creatures along the way, adding their voice to the chorus of the soundscape.Håkan Dalsfelt encapsulates these aural experiences, and although we are sat indoors playing this experience on a screen, the whole package is so immersive, it feels like we are there. The attention to detail is fantastic, in the many creatures, from crows to crabs, and how they interact with our woollen self.
Balance is very important, and the audio team have achieved a really effective balance and the emphasis on particular sounds or music, is well placed. It really enables the music and sound design to work hand in hand.
There isn’t any voice acting present in the game, since the main focus is on Yarny who is pretty silent, however there are some cutscenes with the family where the warmth of the characters really comes across, without the need to hear their voices, through their bodily movements and breaths. Even though we never really know much about them as people, we also know so much about them as we follow in their footsteps and learn about the difficulties they try to overcome. It’s definitely a game that tugs at the heartstrings in many different ways as you play.
Overall, it really is a touching experience that is brought to life by the rich soundscapes and a deep, atmospheric soundtrack. Highly recommend the experience!
To see me play Unravel:
The Sound Architect