Unpacking is an intriguing game, and in many instances, a very delightful one. It takes the best components of a puzzler, home décor, and inventory management to create an engaging and unique experience without overstaying its welcome. In a world dominated by bloated graphics and rushed gameplay, Unpacking comes in with the subtle and acute observation of simple, yet imaginative storytelling.
So what are the delightful parts? That would be through the execution of indie developer Witch Beam Studios and publisher Humble Games, who do a brilliant job of fusing together the four elements that bind us as human beings: innocence, love, companionship, and the need to find a home. The developers break out of the traditional gaming mold and with audacious originality and heartfelt emotions, run their programming skills like butterflies let loose to fly free.
You start the game looking through the eyes of a young girl and view her life through the content of her possessions. You don’t unpack belongings, but the memories of where she started and where she is destined to go.
Unpacking has multiple scenarios but it pretty much follows one core theme: the act of moving on. I surmise, that we live much of our lives in a state of confusion between the belief that there must be something better out there and the fear of abandoning what we know and are familiar with.
You start the game looking through the eyes of a young girl and view her life through the content of her possessions. You don’t unpack belongings, but the memories of where she started and where she is destined to go. The game is not a compelling drama per se, so much as it is a poignant observation of situations and events that you try to interpret.
Unpacking offers many shots of individual household items, journals, books, and childhood memories, that beg to tell a story. While many might read my impressions of the game and be convinced that the game is boring, it actually is the opposite.
If there’s any quibble to be had with Unpacking, it’s that the inventory mechanics are slightly off in a few places. For one, some items can only be moved to certain rooms which limits your ability to place them anywhere you want. And two, the game is quite short, so anyone with experience in this type of game will probably experience all it has to offer in just a handful of hours.
The developers break out of the traditional gaming mold and with audacious originality and heartfelt emotions, run their programming skills like butterflies let loose to fly free.
Excluding those minor gripes, the storytelling is so subtle and completely embodies a person who we see growing up before our eyes. There is a tendency, perhaps, with these types of games to spend a great deal of time combing through the multiple layers to simply find a story. This type of coding trickery is often used to conceal its lack of creativity, and Unpacking absolutely shows no signs of it.
While many of this year’s best games will feature ultra-realistic graphics and characters that are resolved to live on their own terms, Unpacking deserves to be mentioned alongside those games and not get lost in the year-end awards hysteria. Unpacking does not try to reinvent the wheel but merely shows how appealing a game can be by simply hitting all the right emotional notes and letting the player interpret the story on their own terms rather than the other way around.
Not many games like this are made these days because they are hard to execute and the financial risk to find an audience that will resonate with this particular niche can be costly. Unpacking, however, has qualities that are hard to analyze, but impossible to miss and it offers an immensely satisfying experience that should be played by anyone looking to find their own way home.