Monday, November 15, 2021

Unpacking (XBS, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

Unpacking is the next game on the review roster for SPC, and it's not usually the fare covered on the site. Thankfully, this Game Pass title delivered with a delightful and relaxing game. Read more with the SPC review.

Leader of the "Pack"

Moving is an oftentimes stressful and hectic activity to do in the best of circumstances, so it takes some kind of special skill to create a video game that makes the process actually enjoyable. Well, that is exactly what developer Witch Beam has done with Unpacking, a game that focuses on the eponymous activity and turns it into a calming, relaxing game.

Each "level" or year in Unpacking sees you--well--unpacking from a series of cardboard boxes in a new abode, whether it be your starting childhood room, or ending up with a full-blown house in adulthood with partner (and new baby) in tow. While many of the items that you encounter whilst unpacking don't have much of a sentimental value to them (unless our main character really, REALLY finds specific rolls of toilet paper endearing), the items that do have value happen to help tell a story about the unspecific character whose moving you're essentially assisting with. Everything from their occupation, hobbies, and more can be surmised or at least guessed on, which adds to some of the fun in the game. 

You begin Unpacking by unboxing items within your childhood room.

The act and art of unpacking itself in Unpacking is simple and sweet. The left stick provides you with a cursor to move around, which can have its sensitivity altered to your liking, and able to "click" on items to grab them, rotate them, and place them where needed. You can also zoom in and out to your desired depth, allowing you to see all there is to the rooms and objects of which you are interacting with. 

Unpacking is as easy as opening a box, clicking on it, and thus getting the first, predetermined item out of it. Really, Unpacking is a puzzle game as much as it is a zen-like relaxation game. After all of the items have been removed from their boxes and the boxes recycled, you'll see a red, flashing outline around items that are not in their proper rooms or places. 

From there, it's college time. It's our character's first extended time away from home.

It's not always as simple as realizing you can't have a working toaster inside a bathtub (hopefully knowledge that most of you reading this review know), as the game can get very particular about where items needed to be placed. Sometimes it's difficult to decipher what an item actual is, no matter how much you zoom in or out on the object in question. That understandably makes properly placing a particular object a tad difficult. 

Again, starting off in the game, you begin with one room, but by the end, you're unpacking boxes throughout an entire house. Just because a box is in one room doesn't mean all of the items inside belong to that room, as you'll discover in later levels. Some objects need to be turned and placed oh-so-particularly. It's here that Unpacking can be a bit of stress-inducing game at times.

The ease of the cursor-based controls even on consoles is lovely.

Of course, if you're the type who doesn't want any stress whatsoever and wishes to place items willy-nilly, you're able to do so via the game's accessibility options. You can turn on the ability to put items wherever without issue and without them needed to be in specific rooms or spots in said rooms. This is great for artistic endeavors, creativity, and enjoyment (or if you're just wanting a quick run through the game for achievements. No judgment. You do you.).

Unpacking isn't just about unpacking everything and placing things where they need to go: the game also possesses some puzzles in the form of optional tasks and achievements that involve interacting with objects and placing items in specific ways. This reveals unlockable stickers that can be used in your photographs and are a cool collectible by which to aim for on the whole. 

Unlock various stickers from completing a variety of in-game tasks.

On the presentation side of Unpacking, the game sports a colorful pixel art style with isometric angles for each of the rooms you place objects inside. For the most part, items that you assign to shelves, beds, floors, chests, drawers, and more are properly detailed and easy to distinguish between save for a couple of stragglers here and there which provide some occasional and initial confusion. The amount of items and objects presented in Unpacking is amazing, especially because they are so well detailed and lovely on the eyes. Unpacking's presentation is a pleasant one, and this continues with the sound design. The plops and ploops (I made up the latter) sound fantastic and lend to the zen-like feel of the game. Then, you have the soundtrack that is supports the mostly relaxing gameplay. It all meshes together like a well-sorted bedroom with everything properly in its place.

A studio apartment with modern amenities? In THIS economy?

Unpacking succeeds at what it sets out to do: create a calming and zen-like gaming experience for players. Whether you opt to adhere to the game's rules of positioning items or not (which can be turned on or off at any time), you can create and enjoy the game the way you want. As someone who has an admittedly short attention span, I didn't think I would take kindly to the ordinarily painstaking and tedious task of opening up boxes, removing their contents, and placing everything where I deemed they belonged. However, despite there being the periodical bouts of repetition in the overall design, I ended up enjoying my time with Unpacking.

[SPC Says: B]

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