In Unpacking, you remove one item at a time from a box and place it somewhere in a room. For those that appreciate a good clean-up or packing process, it’s a rather relaxing experience. However, if the idea of a spring clean or moving houses sends a sense of dread straight down your spine, Unpacking may be an anxiety-ridden simulator of dreaded memories.
There isn’t one right answer to the layout of objects in a room, but you must place things in a generally correct area. You can’t put the toothbrush on your bedside table, for example, it goes into the bathroom. So Unpacking is puzzle-lite, but with wiggle-room for player freedom and expression.
I remember playing Unpacking last year at PAX AUS and although I enjoyed it, I jumped off sooner than I would have liked because I felt the eyes digging into my back and felt like my skills as a home decorated were being judged. That is simply one of the downfalls of playing games in public. Another reason I probably won’t stream this game anytime soon. I’m totally overthinking it but for whatever reason, playing Unpacking feels like a quick way to get judged for your tidiness and eye for detail.
Being able to dive into the PAX Online 2020 demo I discovered something I didn’t know I needed from Unpacking — a story. It was as I progressed from the first level, which is set in 1997, to the second level set in 2004 that I realised you were unpacking the belongings of the same person. They’d carried some of their same items, some stuffed toys and books from one house to another. The personality of the person was also the same. An obvious love for arts, video games and music was represented in their belongings. Suddenly I found myself more invested in each object and the story it was telling. What happened to the items this character hadn’t brought over the 7-year gap? And do we really need some of these smaller items like an Eiffel Tower statue? Is that important to this person, or just a keepsake?
I now wonder how the levels will progress as this character ages. Will I have to see them drop certain objects as they become an adult? Will they carry one stuffed toy into their old years? Will they hand one down to a child?! That’d be sweet detail.
Just how deep the secret narrative of the unnamed character in developer Witch Beams Unpacking will be revealed when the game releases in 2021. I can’t wait to discover more and spend time meticulously placing items on shelves. Not something you’d usually say when talking about video games, but Unpacking is not what you’d call a typical video game. However, it is just as engaging as any other puzzler out there.
For now, you can download the demo via Steam and check the game out for yourself.