One of the best things about video games is that you can spend time being something other than yourself. Be it a svelte, athletic tomb raider; a grizzled, armour-covered beefcake with a sword; or a small submarine, exploring the dark depths of the ocean. With video games we’ve pretty much been anything and anyone, so imagine my surprise when I discover that in Unbox you spend the entire game as a small cardboard box.

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Developed by Prospect Games, Unbox is one of those games that legitimately caught me by surprise. From the initial trailer, it seemed to be just another generic adventure game that you would get for ten-a-penny in the Steam Greenlight library. But when I started to mess around with it, I was pleasantly surprised by how fun it was.

The thing about Unbox that stood out to me the most and kept me going was that it brought me back to days of my childhood where I spent weeks playing adventures games like Banjo Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day – games that I still go back to from time to time. They’re colourful, have big open worlds with cartoonish characters, soundtracks that are creative and noticeably different in their own ways and there’s a level of humour that can appeal to both kids and adults. And so that’s how I found myself starting my quest in Unbox as the stoic and silent hero “Bob the Box”.

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Your adventure begins on the giant oil rig “Other Base” and straight away you can see where the developers are going with this. There’s all sorts of little videogame references tucked away, my favourite of which was from the comical Cray who said upon my arrival: “Are you a floating light that’s going to guide me through an English village?”

The starter area of “Other Base” basically acts like your hub and from there you can jump, stumble and roll around to different posting points that will shove you into shipping crates which send you to far flung reaches of the world. This was one of those areas that heavily reminded me of Banjo Kazooie, because as you walk up to each shipping area they add their own little flare to the overworld soundtrack. For example, as I got close to the shipping point the snow level added a little Christmas-y tinkle to the theme, whilst the tropical island crate added tribal tones. It’s this nice little slow fade in music and just adds to the immersion.

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The story in Unbox is that you’re a sentient box created by the Global Postal Service (GPS) in order to stop the company from going bankrupt. What this involves exactly is travelling to different areas of the world and completing challenges like races, puzzles and other fun activities before taking out the boss of the level and going to the next location.

Movement in Unbox is a little awkward but fun in an anarchic kind of way. As a box you obviously can’t roll in a straight line, so instead you bounce along all over the place as you try to get to your next destination, although you will often land a little awkward and cartwheel off in another direction than you intended. Finer movement isn’t this game’s strong point, but it does add to its charm. To help you move around you can also “Unbox”, what this involves is firing another version of yourself out to propel yourself higher or across large gaps. It’s a simple, yet handy double-jump mechanic that you can only use six times in a row before you need to pick up health packs to recharge the ability.

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A lot of the gameplay heavily involves using this method to fly around the area grabbing collectibles, completing challenges or picking up stamps that let you unlock the boss fight. It is a little difficult to get used to the movement in Unbox at first, but you pick it up after a while so you don’t find yourself overcompensating and accidently rolling off ledges or platforms as much as you do during the early stages of the game.

What I enjoyed about Unbox is that it’s one of those take-it-at-your-own-pace kinds of games. You could go straight to each challenge mission one after the other, or you could explore the level, pick up collectibles or just unbox like a madman and see how much of the island you can clear in one single jump. It’s a nice laidback approach that I found quite relaxing as I rolled around the levels exploring every nook and cranny.

One final thing that I absolutely adored about Unbox is all the little references and jokes they slip in. Like how the vendor that lets you customise your box is called “Swift Tayloring” or that there’s a bridge you can cross called “Bridgey Mc Bridgeface”. There are lots of little gags that they subtly put into the game that got a chuckle out of me as I rolled along.

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Unbox is what Prospect Games call a “Love letter to 90’s platformers” and it certainly shows. From the way they handle their characters, to the comedy and even the subtle soundtrack mixing, it all just works together into this big mix of 90’s adventure game nostalgia for me that genuinely perked me up for a while as I played it.

With a multiplayer mode and a deep mystery surrounding the true role of the boxes in the main story to uncover there’s enough in Unbox to keep me coming back to it for a while. It hit all those warm and fuzzy nostalgia buttons in me that appealed to my inner kid and kept me playing a lot longer than I normally would have had they not done it so well.

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Like the release of DOOM earlier in the year, Unbox is one of those games that genuinely surprised me. I went in with the bar set low, because the premise of playing as a box doesn’t exactly stand out as something you could get a lot of content out of, but this toy box didn’t seem to have any bottom as I continued to find more and more to mess around with the deeper I got.

About The Author

Contributor

A self-described child of the 90s, Matt is obsessed with everything nerdy in that era from Transformers to G.I Joe. Found inside a bargain bin of Doctor Who DVD's, he was quickly adopted by the Indie Haven team and tasked with writing humorous articles.

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