Unbox is a rather charming affair that harkens back to an age of 3D platformers more invested in colourful landscapes and fun gameplay, rather than vision distorting speed, definitive remasters or capturing younger audiences whilst keeping the older ones happy. The 3D platformer has seen a bit of a fall sadly, maybe because it’s been outmoded in our new procedurally generated heavy age, or the titular franchises behind them have erred on the stale side. Either way, Unbox is a refreshing reminder that the genre still has a lot to offer.
When I first played Unbox, it was at EGX 2015 and I was utterly trounced in the 4 player local multiplayer game mode and at the time even I was wondering if we needed another game of its type, despite its quirky premise. But as I’ve had another go recently at the single player slightly open world parts of the game, it has come on much stronger than I originally gave it credit for. So hear me out as I describe the game to you before thinking you’ve heard it all before.
The premise of Unbox is that you are a very clever self delivering parcel who has to help deliver goods to various people and missions across several small open world islands, all linked together by a central postal hub. As you go around, you have to deal with the physics of you being a square box and collect various items to help power up and unlock new styles for your box to be dressed up in.
The best part of this is the ability to “unbox” yourself. You get the option, once powered up, to explode out of your current box which will give you more speed, power and height. Which is a great tool for getting hard to reach areas and large jumps. One of the missions I played, I had to collect three packages and bring them back to a boat, which is actually quite difficult whilst being bombed from above and having to traverse many dangers to collect everything. The unboxing not only helped to tackle the puzzle, but also allowed different styles of playing in order to complete it.
Of course no game like this would be complete without a enemy in your way, and that’s exactly what Unbox has, along with very destructible environments in which the chaos ensues. You’ll be fired upon by missiles, compete in races and many other challenges that will enable you to be frustrated or elated once you’ve completed. There’s a cast of various characters that give you missions to complete and reward you with goodies for doing so.
When you’re actually playing though this does have a very fast paced feel to it with the slightly unpredictable physics of being a box adding to the challenge. You may nail something perfectly but even in that moment challenges will arise to knock you off your course or require you to use your skills and available Unboxes to get yourself out of a situation. If you can imagine a game like Crash Bandicoot and its courses that require speed but also an ability to get everything you can in your path, and move that to a big open setting, then you’ll get the idea of what Unbox is trying to accomplish, and mostly does.
The multiplayer I mode I played was a free for all to score the most points, collecting coins and bashing other boxes to steal their score, amidst a load of firework and heavy particle weaponry. It’s quite chaotic in a fun way but with the screen being divided in to four for only local play options, I did feel this would benefit from being online. Purely for more space on the screen to see what you’re doing and get the best out of what the game is doing too. But this has been a strong eighteen months for 4 player local multiplayer games, and I wonder if one takes the leap to online, would it help the experience? Probably not, as the enjoyment here is really in ribbing your mates over their loss, in person, to their face.
Unbox is an interesting and unique look at the 3D platform genre adding little bits from other styles of games, like the physics and open world setting, to create a refreshing experience. It certainly doesn’t feel that it’ll become stale in later missions and the difficulty is challenging but not overwhelming, once you’ve adjusted to the speed and unpredictability of being a giant cardboard box. Keep an eye on this one.
Unbox, by Prospect Games, will be released on PS4, Xbox One and Steam. There is no available release date yet.