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A quest to conquer an ever growing backlog of games.

Backlog Impressions | Unpacking

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It’s funny how simply changing where it is we hang our hats at the end of the day can have such a huge impact on our lives. Packing up our belongings and moving from one location to another is always an event that sticks out in our memories. Whether it’s a joyous occasion like moving out of your parents’ house for the first time, or something sad like finding your own place after a bad break up, these memories serve as  memory waypoints we’re drawn back to within our personal timeliness. And that’s exactly the kind of nostalgia Witch Beam has set out to evoke with their zen puzzle game, Unpacking.

We travel along through the years with the protagonist, an unnamed woman, as she empties boxes of her belongings at various stages in her life. We quickly found ourselves immersed in a satisfying experience where we were unpacking more than just knicknacks.  Here’s how it went:

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Unpacking proved itself to be a remarkably different experience right from the get go. While the base premise of the game is a fairly simple one, I can say with certainty that I haven’t played anything quite like it before and that alone pleased me to no end. I love a good puzzle game and while there isn’t anything terribly difficult about the puzzles in Unpacking, there’s a whole lot more to the game than first meets the eye.

I first saw it advertised on Gamepass and took a look right away. The art style seemed really cute and the gameplay fairly simple. What made me hesitate to play it right away though was all the precise picking up and placing of objects, which made it seem more like a game better suited for a keyboard and mouse than with a controller on a console. Because of that I ended up putting off playing it since I was deep into a few other PC games at the time.

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As far as puzzle games in general go, as I mentioned earlier, Unpacking is fairly straightforward with not too much to toil over. You need to put things in their proper place and even that for the most part can be somewhat fluid as long as it makes sense. Things need to be tidy and put away properly of course, clothes hung up or in drawers, shampoo in the shower, cooking utensils in a kitchen drawer, etc. However things like decorations or books can usually be placed in any room of the house. Once all the boxes are unpacked, in order to complete the stage, the game will tell you what is out of place and in what room, though not necessarily where it needs to go.

Once we got a few stages in it was fun seeing what she decided to bring along with her. Seeing a handful of items continually make a reappearance, usually in an increasingly broken or worn state, always made me smile. Also, playing with a controller worked out just fine. The controls were quite snappy and didn’t require a ton of finagling to get objects in the right place. With all of that in mind, one of the things that really stood out was the attention to detail when it came to all of the bibs and bobs you could interact with while unpacking! For example, you could set the alarm clock, or listen to the radio, or rearrange the fridge magnets to spell words out or even create little math equations. What made it even more fun, and motivated you to poke and prod every little thing, was that devs rewarded you with stickers you could place in your sticker book. They didn’t have any use outside of that, but it inspired experimentation, and I appreciate that!

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There were so many things about this game that I just loved, but one of my favorite things was that in a few stages there were items that told an entire story all by themselves, and really evoked a whole range of emotions. Like having to put her framed college degree under the bed when moving into her boyfriend’s house. He clearly didn’t make room for her and her belongings, and it was a bit heartbreaking. Or when you are unpacking a bunch of shipping boxes and placing new objects into a previously played level, not because she had to move, but because she was making good money now and could afford nice things. Putting away her much fancier bras made me feel so happy! The luxury of a good bra makes a world of difference in a girl’s life let me tell you!

I don’t have much to complain about with this game honestly other than I was still completely addicted when those credits rolled and all I wanted was more Unpacking! All my fingers and toes are crossed for some DLC or a sequel eventually! Oh and if you need a legit complaint, all I can think of is, for god’s sake make the pots and stove burners line up when I place a pot on the stovetop!!! It’s a perfectly legit place to store a pot or a pan but not when it’s completely off kilter!! Gaaahhh!!

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This was absolutely a sleeper hit in the co-op department for us. We had so much fun figuring out where things go and even made some interesting discoveries about each other when it comes to what we each consider “blasphemous” in the realm of home organization. Seriously, who in their right mind finds it acceptable to put a rolling pin on a high shelf “as long as it’s behind other stuff so it wont roll off”!? Lucky I was there to watch out for our dear protagonist lest she end up unconscious on her kitchen floor while making cookies one day!

But in all seriousness we had a good time playing pass the controller on this one. It sparked a lot of interesting discussion between us and I know we’d gladly play more should there ever be an expansion of some sort.

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I think it’s safe to say that with Unpacking you are in for one heck of a satisfying and peaceful good time no matter if you play by yourself or with a partner. There’s nothing wrong with a little simplicity and Unpacking has proven that with flying colors. In fact, all this virtual home organization has inspired me to get my own house in neat and tidy order… haha just kidding!

If you’re interested in trying out Unpacking for yourself, you can find it right now on the Nintendo Switch,  the Xbox Store, and Steam!