Unpacking was published by Humble Games in 2021, developed by a small indie company called Witch Beam. Unpacking is said to be a” zen, half block fitting, half puzzle game, half home decoration”. Sounds more complex than it is since Unpacking is all about just emptying boxes and putting stuff where it belongs. We start from 1997 and end up in 2018 looking through 11 years of 8 different moves.
The game itself has been made completely with pixel graphics. If you have ever tried pixel art yourself, you get to really appreciate the work and dedication that has been put into the graphics, as all the backgrounds, assets and animations have been done pixel by pixel, by hand. The assets themselves are also done with multiple angles, a detail that you start appreciating more and more you spend time unpacking and placing stuff over, and over again.
The gameplay itself is very simple. You click a box to open it and click it again to get an item. Then you place the item where you want it to go. You can basically place any item anywhere you want, with some hard restrictions applied. When you have finished unpacking, the game will tell you if something is in a wrong place. You get to finish a level after everything is in the right place and then go on to the next move, from first childhood room to college dorm, moving in with a partner and so on. While you do this, Unpacking keeps a subtle story going with the belongings you pack with you through the different moves and how the atmosphere changes in each of the new homes you go into.
Overall Unpacking has a very calming atmosphere to it. A lot of it is due to the music and sound design. You can tell a lot of thought went into making the rich soundscape for the game, as every single item has their unique sound when placed on a surface. Some even make their individual sounds when moved about. The surfaces themselves also have unique sound design, and the different ambient of different rooms has also been taken to consideration. It makes the unpacking experience more immersive, and the atmosphere of the different rooms, flats and houses tells you a subtle story of a person’s different points of life.
My least favourite thing about Unpacking were the controllers. I played it on Nintendo Switch, and as I am not the biggest fan of the Switch controller as it is, I felt it was even clunkier while playing Unpacking. There are a lot of tiny moves you must make during the game with your items and zooming in did not help when the controls weren’t as responsive as I would have liked. I would like to try it out on PC to see whether the controllers feel smoother.
Sadly, I am not sure if Unpacking has a lot of replay value. Not at least for everyone. If you truly enjoy arbitrarily sorting pixel objects in different ways, this is your game to come back to when in need. The developers have put a lot of hidden gems and achievements in there and you can spend days slapping folders and pans on different counters and trying if you can make a radio go on or not. The achievements and easter eggs are a great add in for those who get into the game.
I do recommend trying it out if for nothing else for the fact that it’s a well-made indie game with a well done styling and sound design. I bet that people in the game industry will find value in the game design and get inspired, but in its heart, it is a very good game to just chill and vibe with. If you are a fan of simulation games and puzzles, you might just fall in love with it. I will absolutely come back to it when I am in the mood to just arbitrarily sort
Publisher: Humble Games, 2021
Developer: Witch Beam
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Pictures screenshot by author during gameplay