Unbox: Newbie's Adventure

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNFyXw8OjU8&t

Name:

Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure

Platforms:

PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Developer:

Prospect Games

Genre:

Adventure, Open World, 3D Platformer, Indie, Shooter, Racing

Publisher:

Merge Games, Prospect Games

Modes:

Single-Player, Multiplayer

Release Date:

PC: 5th Sept, 2017

PS4: 26th Jul, 2017

Xbox One: 26th Jul, 2017

Nintendo Switch: 11th Oct, 2017

Engine:

Unreal Engine 4 using Blueprint

Reviewer:

Sarcastic Bulldog

Product Rating:

PEGI:

Review Score:

60/100 (%)

Disclosure:

Copy: Two press copies, one for Xbox One, one for PS4.

Extra:

          Review based on both the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game.

Early Access was granted.

Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is a new indie game by Prospect Games and is a 3D collector-thon platformer full of mid to late 90’s nostalgia. The world of Unbox is an unusual and somewhat unique world of sentient boxes which are part of the ultimate postal service, the GPS. The self-delivering boxes service if you like. Unbox features a vast, vibrant world that encourages exploring, along with the upbeat soundtrack and child-friendly humour that provides an overall fun experience. It is just a shame, however, that it is let down by some issues with the controls and some poor campaign design choices.

 

In the game, you play as a cardboard box called Newbie and your ultimate goal is to save the Global Postal Service (GPS for short). The GPS is going bankrupt, and so they’ve created sentient, self-delivering boxes in an attempt to save the company and the world. I can only assume the motive is to cuts down on running costs or it gives them a unique selling point for the service thus saving the company. I know this all sounds totally mad, but just going along with the story and ignoring the huge range of unanswered questions will help. Otherwise like me, you may get annoyed very quickly. Questions like: ‘Who’s created these boxes?’; ‘Is this world just sentient boxes or do other life-forms exist?’; ‘Boxes delve into other boxes?’ Do not expect answers; you simply will not get them in this game. Just rolling with it and putting it down to good old video game logic works best in this case. Anyway, back to the plot, there is an evil box gang, The Wild Card gang, run by Boss Wild. Boss Wild and his gang are trying to destroy the world and stop the GPS from avoiding bankruptcy. Even though it has such a simple core premise and child-friendly story, key plot points are just not present to make it coherent and the bizarre world with unanswered questions exacerbates the annoyance this brings.

 

 

 

The campaign overall is okay. The developers know the world they have created is all a bit crazy and throughout the game they display the awareness of how ludicrous the concept is and utilises it to the fullest extent. There are plenty of characters with a good sense of humour which gave me a good chuckle. But after a while telling the boxes apart starts to become difficult as the crossover in colours and items picked to accessorise them increases and dilutes the individuality of the characters. This makes them less distinguishable as you progress through the game. Some more effort into the variety of NPC character design would have easily rectified this minor issue. I feel this issue would have easily been rectified if a little more attention and time had been spent by the developers to find new ways to differentiate between the boxes and show their personalities. However, it is odd they have this issue, given the level of character design the player is offered at the start of the game.

 

To the developer’s and the game’s credit there is an excellent range of customisation options to give your own little box some personality and love. By visiting Swift Tailoring, you can try new outfits and add extras like moustaches, top hats, and much, much more. This is a fun little touch and a feature I can see the target audience loving, given how well this has been implemented and the wide range of creative options available. As I said before, this puzzles me as to why there is so much crossover in the appearance of NPCs when such a wide range is on offer during player character creation.

 

The campaign consists of exploring a large open world consisting of mountains, beaches, snowy villages, a shanty town and more. Finding boxes in the world help the player to complete quests that reward you with stamps. Collect enough stamps, and the player can proceed to the boss of each island and attempt to defeat them, which is mandatory before the player can move to the next island. There are also boxes to save which have been captured by Wild Card goons that remind me of the Gobbos locked in cages from Croc: Legend of the Gobbos (1997) by Argonaut Software. Alternatively, you can go on a hunt to collect the many collectables scattered around each island.  Which brings me to the collector-thon aspect of the game, inspired very much by 90s game design from games like Banjo-Kazooie by Rare in 1998. This is an aspect I can see players either loving or hating with little middle ground. I generally embrace collector-thons but this may be more down to the fact I grew up during the boom of this aspect being prevalent in games and may have somewhat developed a level of enjoyment and nostalgia for this when appropriately used. In the context of Unbox, however, this approach has not been used appropriately and has resulted in a crude attempt to pad the play time under the guise of emulating 90s games when this aspect is really not applicable or necessary in this case. A great example of this is when the game says there are 100 golden tapes to find on just one island; this is a tad excessive do you not you think? Can’t say I found it worth the effort for a single achievement and then repeating the same level of effort for each of the following islands to get a few more.

 

 

The big problem with the campaign design is how consistent and repetitive it all feels after the first island, even though the world it inhabits does look gorgeous. Part of this is exacerbated by the side missions which are either racing around a circuit against a rather unforgiving timer, delivering a package against even more unforgiving time limits, or fighting Wild Card goons. In addition to this the repetitiveness is emphasized further by the systematic way in which content from one area reappears in others with little to no change and not bringing any value to the experience and reduces the variation and identity of the islands. Again I know I had a greater love for this in the 90s when I was but just a small child, but even so, I do not think the nostalgia of the format of the game alone will stop anyone from feeling the repetition in this game rapidly.

 

The campaign design is, by far, not the biggest issue. The issue that bothered me most through the whole experience was the way in which the controls behave, the way in which they have been implemented and the feedback the player gets from the game to facilitate precision. Jumping is floaty and took ages to get used too. The degree of floaty-ness combined with lack of feedback often lead to unpredictability which results in mistakes beyond the player’s control unfairly. As a result the game constantly makes you feel like you don’t have control and are at its mercy and in doing so adds additional challenge and frustration which goes too far. I’ve lost count the number of times I could not judge a jump and missed it completely or overpowered a jump due to the lack of control feedback and extreme floaty-ness of the controls. I am usual glad when I see a reasonable level of challenge within a game and especially one that rewards mastery of controls, but I think the game pushed beyond a fair balance especially given this is a game targeted towards children. However, Unbox does have a unique gameplay feature called unboxing that keeps things interesting: with the press of a button your character unfolds into a different size box; a process which you can repeat a couple of times to influence the movement mechanics and aids exploration. The unbox feature essentially acts as the method by which players can access and use a triple jump function and is a fun little feature I enjoyed and thought spiced up traversing the environment with the various ways in which I could use it.

 

Unbox offers some old school split screen action in the form of local multiplayer. This local multiplayer features modes such as collecting the most golden tapes in a given time or shooting fireworks at each other to score points. It is fun for a few matches but, ultimately, will not keep your attention for too long, as it gets, yet again, repetitive like so much else in this game. A majority of the content in this multiplayer segment of the game is the same as the single-player missions but played competitively against your friends. It is a nice feature to have but does not bring anything new to the table and I suspect will not extend play time for most players by much. I think this game would have been far better off with a Gang Beasts or Worms-style local multiplayer that focuses on arenas with fun mechanics rather than rehashes of missions from the single-player.

 

Combat in Unbox involves jumping and power slamming your enemy and, on occasion, you are given a projectile weapon in the shape of fireworks which spices up combat a little. Unfortunately, I would say the controls do hamper the experience when it comes to combat and can become rapidly infuriating. I can see it becoming too infuriating for kids especially with unforgiving timers on certain mission types that are excessive with the pressure they put on the player that even for an experienced gamer would struggle with; just a single mistake in one of these quests and you may as well reset the entire mission. Some of them are that close to the wire!

 

Overall Unbox is a wonderful, vibrant, fun world with a great soundtrack to boot. It is, however, marred by dodgy controls and some boring game design and a multiplayer mode which does not offer anything new to supplement the single-player. I can see this game keeping children distracted for a while if you are looking for something to keep them busy, and it certainly has some charm that even adults will enjoy. However, the repetitiveness of missions and the islands along with issues relating to the controls, prevent me from being able to recommend Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure. If you have some spare time and nothing excellent to play it is worth a try. You may enjoy it for its charm and humour alone, but to make the most of it, you will need to be able to see past a few crucial flaws which prevent it being a really good game. Ultimately, it falls short on emulating the strengths of games from the 90s that it aspires to be like.

 

 

 

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