Time to think inside the box
When it comes to protagonists in platform games, there is certainly a very colorful roster to consider. From hyperactive hedgehogs to portly plumbers, agile aliens to rampaging robots, it certainly isn’t easy to come up with a new and likable character. Well, how about a box? A plain, old, brown shipping box? Yeah, that works, as is evident by the 3D platform game that is Unbox.
The game casts players in the role one such box as he (she? it?) is created and introduced to a life of shipping. It’s not what you’d expect: in the world of Unbox, shipping boxes have become sentient. Not only are they capable of shipping themselves, but they’ve also created their own functional society. They have their own rules, leaders, contributors, innovators and even renegade boxes with malicious intent. The protagonist’s life quickly settles into a routine of delivery, exploring locations, thwarting villainous plans, and essentially being the most useful piece of cardboard ever conceived.
Things play out on an open map that’s somewhat reminiscent of the locales one would expect to find in a game like Far Cry or Crysis. Other locations present themselves as the game wears on, and there’s even a central hub to explore and use for navigation to other areas. There are tons of collectibles hidden in virtually every nook and cranny, as well as a number of small puzzles to solve and the odd side-mission to undertake. There’s even usable vehicles on offer, though I personally found the terrain easier to traverse as my simple, box-y self. And if you get bored with your plain appearance, you may customize your character with unlockables earned from completing challenges and leaving no stone unturned.
True to its name, one of Unbox‘s central mechanics is the ability for players to unbox themselves as a means to achieve otherwise unobtainable heights. Functioning like a combination between a jack-in-the-box and a Russian matryoshka doll, our protagonist discards his old box body to perform a double, triple, even quadruple jump. Further stacked jumps are possible, but each unbox costs a health point. However, enemies and health hazards are minor, so the pay-off far exceeds the cost. Mastery of this skill is absolutely crucial in order to surmount the tricky platforming, especially when the controls are a bit too sensitive and floaty for their own good.
Unfortunately, the controls were’t the only issues I encountered during my time playing Unbox. Various bugs reared their ugly heads, from the odd crash to slow startup times to my box character simply falling off the map. They weren’t too common and the majority of my play time was issue-free, but they existed nonetheless. I also wasn’t a fan of the default resolution, which is quite low and stretched, as well as the occasional lag. Better optimization and higher resolutions will go a long way to making the title endear itself further.
Regardless, there’s a lot to love here. It’s a throwback to 3D platformers of the Nintendo 64 era, and the influences from games such as Banjo-Kazooie are obvious. Game play is lighthearted, family-friendly, and the tunes will stay stuck in your head for days. The strong emphasis on exploration and item-collecting gives it a lot of replay value and it’s so cute and innocent that you just can’t hate it. The fact that you can rope in some of your mates for some split-screen fun only adds to the charm of this flawed-but-likable title.
Unbox is a lovely little 3D exploration platformer with a few issues that hold it back from being truly great. If the game’s problems with bugs, optimization issues and overly-sensitive controls were fixed, it would stand out as one of the finer examples of the 3D platform genre on the PC. Regardless, it’s still immersive and fun to play for both very young players and adults alike. Snag it on Steam here.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Unbox given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.