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Unravel’s Martin Sahlin: Don’t expect the game to be super-sweet all the time

Sitting down to speak with Yarny’s creator, Martin Sahlin, at PAX AUS this morning, I couldn’t help but notice just how much he is like his character. Always smiling and upbeat, Sahlin visibly lifted the spirits of anyone around him, and even moreso when he had his creation — THE Yarny from the EA stage at this year’s E3 — in hand.

From what we’ve seen of Yarny’s adventures in Unravel, it’s reasonable to expect the game is more positive than not. Sahlin, though, stressed that for every high, there needs to be a darker moment to achieve a proper balance.

“It’s important that balance exists,” he said. “That the game isn’t this super-sweet, saccharine, sunshine happy joy thing. Stories without a challenge aren’t interesting. There has to be darkness there, or you wouldn’t appreciate the light.

“The game is designed to make you feel pretty good, but it’s not going to do that without a challenge.”

Unravel is playable at the PlayStation booth at PAX AUS, and will take gamers through a rather positive tutorial. Immediately afterward, things take a turn for the worse with Yarny trudging through toxic goop and avoiding rusty, serrated cans.

“Challenge is a big part of it,” Sahlin stressed. “We won’t always rub you the right way – we do to a degree – but the game is a challenging one. I think it’s pretty cool it gets to be that too, because it’ll make you feel.”

From what I played today, Unravel is all about the feels. Sahlin described how that mantra was incorporated into game design.

“We have this winter level where you’re swinging through tree branches covered in snow. We wanted to make you feel like you were a kid, playing in snow. When that works, when we capture that feeling – it just works. You don’t’have to progress through the level; you can just stay and play in the snow. We want moments of pure joy, pure play… but we also need moments that are somber.”

“I’m a huge fan of giving that pay off; that reward,” he continued. “It won’t feel like a reward if it’s all sugar all the time. The highs, though, outweigh the lows.”

Unravel will be available on Xbox One and PS4 next year. Stay tuned to Stevivor for more with Martin Sahlin.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.

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