Introducing: Unpacking Review
It took me a whole year after moving to finish unpacking everything for both of the major moves that I have taken in my life and I am chronically disorganized. So, obviously a game all about unpacking boxes after a move and organizing is one that would be the perfect one for me, right? Not really, but that doesn’t mean that my eye wasn’t caught when I spotted this one on social media. It took me a while, but I finally got around to playing and after busting through the entire game in one sitting, I just had to get my thoughts about Unpacking out in a review.
Boxes on boxes on boxes
The core idea for Unpacking seems to have come from a very personal place for the creator, initially conceptualized while helping their significant other move into their apartment. It very clearly comes from a place of love and from that experience and that really shows in all the detail that was put into the game. We never see the character that we are moving all over the place aside from a single shot from the back after the credits, but there is so much that I could tell you. For example, I knew from the very beginning that the character was Jewish from one of her possessions and did suspect that she was a girl, only for the next level to fully confirm it when unpacking all her underwear and feminine hygiene products. I know she is a fan of both video games and board games, that she played Dungeons and Dragons for a good long time, but it took years for her to actually get around to learning to paint her miniatures. I know she loves art and her stuffed animals.
Everything that is told is by what is brought along and what is left behind and how things can be placed in the levels. What comes with you and what do you leave behind? What things need to be tucked away hidden in drawers and what do you leave out in the open? Where are you moving? Are you on your own or is there someone there with you? Across just eight stages we see the whole life of our character from childhood through adulthood, taking in so may different stages that she experienced. It’s emotionally effecting in a way that I didn’t expect it to really be. I’m not one to talk to myself while playing games a whole lot, but when I reached the last stages of the game, I was gasping aloud and asking the questions that came to my mind into my empty apartment as I had gotten so invested in her story. It’s a sweet wholesome game that made me feel a lot of love.
Pulling it all out
The mechanics that are on display here are rather simple. Your main goal is to simply unpack the boxes and put things in various places that you think would suit them best. It’s all very straightforward at a glance where there is space for your knickknacks, clothes, and stuffed animals. Once you have pulled everything out and put things away, items that the game deems to be in inappropriate spots will be highlighted red. A lot of the time this made sense to me, like when I had mistakenly left the hairbrush in the sink rather than beside it. Other times it could come down to a difference in how I viewed appropriate storage of items. The game is pretty lenient most of the time, though, and there are various spots where you can place something and still be okay. In fact, there are even some special nooks and crannies to put things that you might not initially think of, such as the ability to put pajamas under your pillows.
I appreciated that there was also an option for the sake of accessibility in the settings that would allow you to place items wherever you would like, removing the puzzle elements to entirely remove any remaining stress from this already stress free game. While I might use it for the sake of silliness in where I am able to put things, it’s an option that I am sure that other people will need for other reasons, so I was glad to see it.
The entire game exudes chill and calming vibes that had me relaxed into my couch more and more with each level. It’s not a particularly long journey, only a few hours long in length, depending on how indecisive you are on where to put things, but it’s time well spent. I got through the entire game in one sitting while home on my own one day and I have been trying to get other people to play it as well ever since. It’s a game that makes me want to share it and has me craving more. even if I know that the creators say that they’re satisfied with what is already here.
Everything has a place
Unpacking is a masterwork of pixel art, in my opinion. Every item that you can find is lovingly crafted with many having multiple different ways that they can be set up or placed, which gives different looks and shapes to objects. For example, most clothing can be folded or hung and an anatomical drawing puppet can be put in different positions. I think in the whole time that I was playing there was only one item that I wasn’t able to tell exactly what it was at first glance, but given it was in the kitchen, it was an easy guess on where it was to go so I was never stalled up. The color palette really spoke to me here too, giving a somewhat nostalgic vibe to the whole proceedings.
The music wasn’t anything that I am going to be humming for weeks, but that’s just fine because it suited the game itself, giving calming but not distracting ambiance the whole way through. For a few hours it was just me, the music, the unpacking, and the sound effects. By god, those sound effects! It feels like there are thousands. So much attention to detail has been paid to the materials of objects and what it sounds like when placing them on different types of surfaces. I think we can all agree that there are games where the thought wouldn’t be put in for what it might sound like if I decided to put the spatula on the bed because nobody is likely to do that, right? Well, here they thought of it and that little extra attention to detail is what really sells everything.
Where does it all go?
No matter where I was playing everything ran perfectly fine for me. I never saw any sorts of glitches in my time playing at all and I can say that this is a well polished experience in every aspect. For some people, the controls of this one might feel a little bit weird, but if you’re used to using a joystick all the time, you shouldn’t have much issue. The cursor is responsive and moves at a good pace. However, if you are someone who prefers the use of a mouse and keyboard, the game is available to you on the freshly re-branded PC Game Pass so you can give it a shot over there.
A labour of love
It might seem silly that as someone with a perpetually messy room and desk, a game about unpacking boxes might appeal to me so much. Heck, I have at least one box from moving a year and a half ago that still isn’t unpacked yet. Still, Unpacking was a game that grabbed me and held me in place for it’s entire playtime in an almost effortless way that I think a lot of other games might be envious of. This review is a result of the way that it makes me want to sing its praises from the rooftops. If you have any inkling that this might be one for you or if you like cozy games, this one is well worth spending some time digging into.
- Immaculate visual design
- Stunning attention to detail
- Heartwarming touches all over the place
- The ability to grab you and hold your attention easily
- There’s not more of it!
Second Opinions by Staff
“Just listening to Mel talk about Unpacking while recording our latest podcast episode made me want to play Unpacking for myself. And I certainly was not disappointed by what I played, also in a single sitting. The charming aesthetic mixed with the light puzzle elements really kept me calm and invested. Being someone that has moved a good number of times in recent years, I can say that Unpacking has struck an interesting emotional chord with me and has been one of the few games able to truly and completely pull me in this year. I can certainly say that I will be joining Mel on that hill and singing my own praises for Unpacking in the future.” – Gregory Renner