Unbox Newbie’s Adventure review: Putting lipstick on a box

Credit: Prospect Games, Merge Games
Credit: Prospect Games, Merge Games /

Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure employs outside-the-box storytelling with by-the-books gameplay for an overall package that left me feeling as empty as a sentient box without its contents.

Developer: Prospect Games
Publisher: Prospect Games, Merge Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: July 26, 2017 (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), September 5, 2016 (Steam)

Prospect Games debut title Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure has been out on Steam for almost a year now. The 3D platformer filled with parcel puns, gaming references, and colorful characters has generally garnered favorable reviews on the digital distributor, and now it’s heading to consoles. But though the premise is interesting and the puns bearable, the gameplay suffers from an overall repetitiveness and lack of imagination that left me bored about one and a half hours into the five and a half it took me to complete Newbie’s adventure.

The single-player campaign has you play as Newbie, the newest in a line of sentient, self-delivering boxes, who is tasked with completing missions and collecting stamps all in an effort to defeat the evil Boss Wild and save the Global Postal Service (GPS). Think 90s platformers like Super Mario 64 or Crash Bandicoot, but you’re a box, and, instead of facing off against a giant dragon turtle or mad scientist, you fight another bigger box.

It took me a little over five hours to complete the main story, which included completing tasks for other various sentient boxes in exchange for stamps that allowed me to fight Boss Wild (another bigger box). There are still many collectibles that I have not collected, which unlock outfits and hats for your box, but I’ll leave that to the Unbox completionists.

Credit: Prospect Games, Merge Games
Credit: Prospect Games, Merge Games /

For a box, Newbie is rather mobile and can jump, ground pound, roll – albeit as wonkily as you would expect of a cube – and do something called “unboxing.” Probably the most interesting aspect of Unbox, “unboxing” is a sort of super jump whereby Newbie sheds a box and fires up into the air, sort of like a Russian nesting doll, but you’re a box within a box within a box within a box. The unboxing mechanic allows you to traverse the three different locations with ease but can only be done six times. Unboxing is also interesting because each separate box shell serves as a life, so if you unbox all six times and are damaged by fire or any of the other hazards found on Paradise Isles, Parcel Peaks, or Isla Cartulina, then you die. Well, actually you just respawn at the most recent mailbox checkpoint you visited, but that sounds decidedly less dramatic.

The three locales that make up Unbox are well-designed, colorful, and easily traversable via jumping, rolling, and unboxing. You start at Other Base (also known as Hub World) and soon set sail for Paradise Isles, an island resort of sorts where you’re told Boss Wild and his “Wild Cards” are causing trouble. That’s about all you’re told.

Even as I finished the game, I still wasn’t sure what exactly drove Boss Wild to cause trouble. Had he turned against his creator for imbuing him with life and then casting him aside? Was he struggling to understand how exactly a cube is capable of rolling anywhere? Did he carry within his cardboard folds the all-too-keen realization that his purpose in life was simply to deliver goods, and that, once delivered, he became simply an empty shell devoid of any intrinsic value and cursed to wander the earth distinctly aware that nothing in life could fill that void? Nope, he’s just a mean box that wants to destroy the world, which is fine but doesn’t exactly make me want to spend 5 hours collecting stamps at three separate locations to fight him three separate times.

Boss Wild isn’t alone in his lack of character motivation. In fact, most of the cast of colorful, sentient boxes that offer up tasks to you are about as vacant in character as they are in package contents. This isn’t really that problematic in a 3D platformer, but I wish Boss Wild were given some motivation. Even Bowser wants to marry Peach… I think. Boss Wild’s only real crime – besides dressing like an Elvis impersonator – seems to be that he is the only sentient box that understands exactly what he was created for: slavery at the hands of the GPS. If anything, he is the hero of Unbox and Newbie is the villain trying to maintain the stranglehold that GPS has over their sentient box slaves.

Credit: Prospect Games, Merge Games
Credit: Prospect Games, Merge Games /

Sentient box slavery aside, my biggest problem with Boss Wild was that each time you fight him, it was over in a matter of minutes. I worked for hours to collect enough stamps to challenge him, and each time I did, it was one of the simplest tasks in the entire game. I had a harder time collecting mops for Mope, the sad box that needs mops for some reason that I forgot. Or collecting crystals for Doovoo, the witch doctor box that needs crystals for some reason that I forgot. Or collecting chess pieces for Kingsly, the board game box that needs chess pieces for some reason that I forgot. Ok, I made up that last one, but maybe I didn’t, because there was a lot of collecting random items for random boxes and it’s begun to blend together in my mind.

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Besides the lackluster boss fights and repetitive tasks, Unbox had the occasional interesting mission. Most of these, I found, were escort missions which suspended unboxing and had you carry another box or package across the map utilizing only jumping, rolling, and the environment. So, while I found the unboxing mechanic interesting and original, I also found it so useful that having it taken away became the only way to make missions challenging and, for me, fun. The rest of the missions are incredibly easy and don’t change from island to mountain to island, which makes it a struggle to collect the 37 stamps needed to complete the single-player campaign.

Which brings me to multiplayer; it’s local multiplayer, but you’re a box. In the spirit of honesty, I will say that I didn’t play much of the multiplayer. The fact that there is local multiplayer makes the less savory aspects of the single-player campaign easier to swallow. There are five multiplayer game modes and ten stages. You could probably kill another hour or two trying the various modes and stages, but you probably won’t. I didn’t, and so that’s all I will say.

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Overall, Unbox is richly designed with delightful characters who dole out packaged puns and gaming references that, paired with the diverse environments, make for a unique world to spend a couple hours. But spending any more than a couple hours there becomes a tedious trek through the same repetitive content just with a slightly altered package. The addition of local multiplayer and box outfit customization (Yes, that is a selling point for me) makes the total package worth the price point, but if you aren’t a die-hard platformer fan or lover of box-based puns then Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is probably not worth your time.

6.5. While the story is built around an original premise (sentient self-delivering boxes), the gameplay is lacking in creativity and becomes repetitive fairly quickly. If you must play a 3D platformer with sentient boxes, then you must play Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure. If not, then stick to Crash Bandicoot.. Prospect Games. . Unbox: Newbie's Adventure

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.