A ways back I got to review Unpacking for the Nintendo Switch. At first, I took on the review job as I thought it would be a chill little puzzle game. But the game absolutely sucker-punched me when I realized there was a story right below the cute pixelized graphics and pleasant music.
Unpacking is a game in which you follow a young girl as she journeys into adulthood. As she enters a new stage in life, you enter a new stage in the game. You get to know what year it is in life and you get to unpack her stuff into a new place. Thus the name.
It starts off pretty simple at first. You unpack her stuff in her childhood bedroom. Stuffed animals on the bed. Plastic ponies on a shelf. A box of crayons and art supplies gives a hint about her future. And little nods to other things that develop with her over time start to appear. A Tamagotchi starts her hobby in gaming which develops over time. Drawings you can put up like the first drawing she was proud of. Stuff like that. Here’s the first stage in its entirety.
Eventually, she goes to college and you really get a feel for how it feels to move as an adult. She moves into a place with some people with similar interests. And when you get there, their stuff is all over the place. They live there already and it shows. But as you put stuff away, without any narration, you come to the realization that in the kitchen drawers, the bathroom medicine cabinet, the bookshelf in the game room, there’s been an open and empty one where they clearly made room for your stuff. Some of your stuff goes in there too, whether it be things like kitchen stuff or how well your D&D figurine looks on the shelf next to the characters of your two roommates.
There’s a strange psychological thing that happens here too. As I remind you, there is no narration so this is all in your head. You make the story via context clues. For example, while you can feel the two dormmates made room for you, their rooms also appear on the map but are greyed out. I didn’t feel like I was blocked from exploration, I felt “well yeah, that would be rude. I don’t want to start her off on a bad foot.”
The big part is when she moves in with a dude. At this point in the game I was very emotionally invested in the protagonist so without meeting this guy I hated him immediately. Despite having a fairly impressive high rise apparent in the city, there’s no room to put anything. Most of your stuff is just crammed into the storage of a man who has not gone out of his way for you in the least. In fact, some of his stuff isn’t allowed to be moved.
The real kicker is when you get to your diploma. This framed piece of paperwork has been on the wall with you in many places you’ve gone to and it’s something your character worked hard for. In this stage, there’s only one place it’ll go. Under the bed.
But beyond that one stage, it’s actually a really heartfelt, joyous ride of someone else’s life and experiences with a really positive and heartfelt ending that, admittedly, made me tear up a bit.
Another thing I absolutely love about this game is that it knows what you want to do even if you don’t realize it knows. For example, you unpack some kitchen magnets and maybe you want to put them up in a silly way? Turns out the devs were expecting that.
Now, admittedly, the Playstation version of this game is hecka late as I played it on Switch towards the end of last year. So chances are you played this absolute gem already. But I’ll be honest, playing it for the second time on a different system, despite not having any differences, was nice and still felt as great as it did the first time.
And if you haven’t? Pack your things and go download this immediately.