A Platforming Thread Through E3 part 2


Game Category1 Category2 Name Description Link
Unravel Mechanics Yarn man unravels as the player travels through the level.
Unravel Mechanics Swing Tether swings with yarn from your own body. Video!
Unravel Level Elements Anchor Find anchor points in the level to create new swinging opportunities for progression. Video
Unravel Level Elements Kite, Anchor Has an anchor point players can use to fly themselves away.
Unravel Level Design Stealth Use the shovels and objects in the mid ground to hide and avoid dangerous elements in the background. Video!
Unravel Mechanics Pull Use yarn to pull a light source through a dark snow storm Video!
Unravel Level Elements Fish, Anchor Use the hook in a fish as an anchor to power your raft.
Unravel Feedback glow anchor anchor points glow very faintly with a while particle effect.

Richard: I initially thought that the Yarn theme in Yoshi’s Woolly World was completely visual, but as I’m looking at gameplay footage more closely, I can see more and more Yarn-like mechanics and systems. Contrast Yoshi with Yarny from the upcoming PS4 game, Unravel.

image by Cheepers   @mackadoodledoo  image by Cheepers   @mackadoodledoo

It’s not every E3 that we see two games with a yarn aesthetic! Unravel looks like more of a puzzle game or a set piece-driven exploration game than it does a platformer. The level design seems more linear and the camera view doesn’t look like it lets players see a large part of the level.

Marcus: The camera does look zoomed-in a bit. However, in the gameplay scenes, the ratio of Yarny to screen-size is about the same as Mario’s ratio in his wide screen platformers. I guess it is a matter of perspective: the slightly zoomed-in camera conveys how different the world looks when you’re small. The real take away is that the camera always appears to be a singular forward-focus camera. The camera in the horizontal side-scrolling scenes always positions Yarny in the center or the left quarter of the screen. Even when moving left the camera doesn’t adjust to give players a better view of where Yarny is facing (0m44s). Like the original Super Mario Bros., the camera is telling you to keep moving right, which hampers a potential exploration aspect.

Richard: The yarn theme is the aspect of Unravel that excites me the most. It has the potential to be mechanical (solving puzzles) and thematic (tying a story together) and a neat system for conveying player limits and other important information (feedback).

From the Unravel website:

  • “Yarny is a tiny new character made from a single thread of yarn that slowly unravels as he embarks on a …journey.”
  • “Using Yarny’s thread, interact with the environment… the tools may be simple but they have the ability to accomplish complex puzzles.”
  • “Unlock a heart-felt story re-connecting the memories of a long lost family…Yarny is the bond that ties everything together.”

The tricky part is that all of this potential is best realized with nonlinear gameplay. My first thought was that the puzzles would need to feature multiple solutions for the theme of tying things together to be well-supported by the gameplay. Then I realized that the puzzles don’t have to be nonlinear if the multiple attempts at solving a puzzle consumes yarn, which would limit the player’s ability to explore or use other mechanics. It’d be neat if yarn was a resource to conserve, spend, and consider.

Marcus: Not just multiple attempts, but an elegant solution to a puzzle could use less string than a brute force method. It’s the opposite of The Longest Path puzzle in Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Each street intersection in the Layton puzzle could be a hook to attach your yarn to and swing across in Unravel. Taking the optimal path by hooking the correct series of hooks would take up less yarn and thus could afford you more string to work with later.  

Richard: I found a secret! Right where the rock crumbles, there appears to be a cove with a small red, yarn-like collectable. I assume this is an early level in the game so the secret placement is relatively simple. Still, secrets are optional challenges that give gameplay a degree of nonlinearity. I wonder if grabbing this secret will leave a trail of Yarny yarn to indicates the player went off the main path.

On a side note the visuals are very impressive. The snow scene in particular reminds me of the Polar Express art. Also, the way Yarny throws out lines of yarn reminds me of Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, a 3DS game from Nintendo that was also featured at this years E3.

Stay tuned as we continue this thread.