Unbox: Newbies Adventure is an enjoyable 3D platforming collect-a-thon despite its battered edges. The FingerGuns Review;
We’ve been talking to Prospect Games’ Andrew Bennison all about Unbox! Check out the interview right here:
The 3D platformer genre is back. Between Yooka-Laylee, Ratchet & Clank, Super Lucky’s Adventure, the return of Crash Bandicoot and many more, it’s starting to feel like the heady days of the 90’s again, resplendent with anthropomorphistic protagonists. Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is the latest game to reinvigorate the genre but is attempting something a little different – by splicing together the classics of the N64 with elements of slapstick comedy similar to Goat Simulator.
In Unbox: Newbies Adventure you play as an autonomous cardbox box called Newbie, the latest creation of the Global Postal Service (GPS for short) which specialises in self-delivering packages. GPS is going out of business because of a group of rogue boxes called the Wild Cards that are stirring up trouble for them. The fate of the company and their “employees” called Zippies, rests in the… I was going to say hands but… flaps(?) of Newbie. The cardboard crusader must go out into the world, help out the other GPS boxes, collect special stamps and then box out the Wild Cards before the GPS is shipped off for good.
Now, have you ever rolled a cardboard box down the stairs in real life? It’s an awkward and unpredictable movement. That’s the type of movement that Newbie has in Unbox. It’s a little clumsy at first – like you’re powering a ball inside a box, directing the momentum rather than the box itself – and takes an hour or so to acclimatise yourself to but once you have, it’s a real joy. Don’t get me wrong, Unbox always lacks the accuracy of jumping or movement that you’d find in 75% of other 3D platformers but that gives it a lovely twitchy and playful feel that keeps you on your…I was going to say “toes” but…Flaps again? Flaps. It’s akin to the movement of the Goat in Goat Simulator but much more fluid, more responsive and polished to increase fun rather than annoyance.
Thankfully, if you do fall off a cliff or roll off a platform, Newbie has a trick up his packaging – the Unbox. The Unbox would be referred to as a double jump in any other game. Here, you can use 6 of them at any one time (which can be replenished by collecting green health boxes found around the game world) and it propels you upwards. Like a russian doll, Newbie explodes out of his outer layer to push himself into the air. Combine this with his normal jump (which requires no box loss) and you can traverse the vast open areas of Unbox with ease. The game does a good job of littering the green Unbox refills where they’re needed – around cliff edges, large bodies of water and on tight elevated pathways – to ensure you’re not running short when you need them. There are also handily placed checkpoints where you will respawn if you do fall to your doom, shaped like a post box, of course.
Much like the collect-a-thon platformers which inspire Unbox, there are a tonne of collectables around the games 4 worlds. Golden Tape is the most abundant, with 200 pieces hidden around each zone. Collecting these unlocks box customisation items you can equip at Swift Tailoring (one of many pop culture references found in this game). There’s also a set of collectables which unlock an audio-log of sorts which expands upon what is actually going on in the frankly bizarre plot. Then there are the main collectors item – stamps. In each world, you must find and collect a set number of these to trigger a boss fight. Some of these can be found around the world areas while others are the reward for completing jobs for other GPS boxes.
There’s a charming cast of other boxes to meet in Unbox. They all have their own aesthetic & personalities and account for a lot of the humour and structured content in the game. There’s Cray, an early GPS box prototype whose face is drawn on with crayon. He’s as intelligent as an actual cardboard box and sends you out on fetch quests and puzzle missions. Then there’s Hop, a box with bunny ears, who’s a bit of a prankster. Her (I say “her” but… Do cardboard boxes have genders?) missions are predominantly delivery based and ask you to traverse dangerous areas without the help of the Unbox ability. And then there’s X who challenges you to race around the game worlds, passing through checkpoints as fast as you can and takes cheeky digs at Sonic The Hedgehog.
It’s the combat of Unbox that eventually lets it down. As you progress through the game, fighting the Wild Cards becomes part and parcel of the play and it’s here that the flaws in the fighting become very apparent. There are 2 ways to beat boxes – jump and then stomp on them or hit them with a firework – and neither of them have any impact or forcefulness. The stomping is inaccurate and there’s hardly a difference in stomping or falling to the ground naturally. I resorted to jumping and wildly slapping the circle button repeatedly until I was no longer being attacked. The fireworks are just a button press. There’s no feeling of explosive fanfare. It’s overly simplistic in single player. You just line up a target, make sure it’s green and press X. Blasting evil boxes with fireworks should feel so much cooler that it does here.
Then there’s the vehicles. Imagine Halo’s Warthog control mixed with a Morrison’s shopping trolley with a wobbly wheel. For the vast majority of the game, driving is simple slapstick fun. It’s awkward and stiff and funny. It’s a bit of a distraction from all the platforming and collecting – except when it becomes a progress barring race in the game’s 3rd world. Having to drive a rally car with the handling of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe around a track so narrow I expected Gandalf to step out and say “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” at any moment was not very fun.
The third and final complaint is to do with the visuals. Unbox looks fantastic most of the time. It’s colourful, using every shade in the palette to bring the bright Paradise Isles, shiny Parcel Peaks and the vivid Isla Cartulina to life. The game has an impressive draw distance too – climb to the tallest possible point and you can see quite a distance before the details start to get blurry. It’s the frame rate that is the issue in Unbox. When the screen gets full of Wild Card boxes attacking you, there’s some significant slow down which compounds the issues with the combat further.
Despite these issues, Ubox: Newbie’s Adventure’s single player adventure is one of the funnest games I’ve played in 2017. Rather than trying to replicate the games of the past, Unbox tries something different by splicing in elements of the Comedy Simulator genre and for the most part, it shines. It says “Hey! Here are a few open worlds with plenty for you to do and for you to explore. Go crazy. Oh, and, I forgot to mention, you’re also a moving cardboard box too” and there’s something pretty magical about how the main focus of the game is to just have a laugh. The pop culture references, the jokes, the slapstick but polished movement, the free-roaming platforming – It all combines into a family friendly game that had me smiling throughout.
Unbox: Newbies Adventure does come complete with a set of 5 local multiplayer modes – Collect, Boxing, Oddbox, Thief & Delivery. All of these modes can be played in 1-4 player split screen. “Collect” is a race to pick up a set number of Golden Tape quicker than your opponents. “Boxing” is an all out war where you earn points for blasting your foes with fireworks. “Oddbox” awards points to the person who has hold of the Oddbox. The opponents can steal the Oddbox by shooting you with fireworks. “Thief” is a Confirmed Kill type mode where you must pick up the coins left by the opponents you blast to earn points. “Delivery” is a straight up race from A to B along specially designed levels.
The Multiplayer modes give you something that the Single Player doesn’t – weapons. Crates of them. Whereas the single player content limits you to just bog standard fireworks, you’re free to use the full arsenal here. This includes (but is not limited to) Vortex bombs that suck in your opponents, balloons you can attach to your enemies to lift them into the air and a ball and chain which you can use to drag your foes into the deep blue sea. You can customise which weapons are available in a match too. It’s a shame these weapons didn’t make it as usable content in the the single player content because they’re so damn fun to use.
The awkward, unpredictable nature of the box movement is back here too and in multiplayer, it’s all about entertainment rather than competition. The Unbox multiplayer modes are designed to give you equal chances of winning but it’s also about having fun – something it achieves in spades.
Playing Unbox with my family has been an absolute blast for the past week. As my kids chase me down with a barrage of explosives, I’m attaching a ball and chain to my wife (so much symbolism in that sentence) and nudging her into the water. Seconds later we’re laughing because my wife said “There’s nothing worse than a soggy box” and the kids are confused but laugh along anyway. Multiplayer on Unbox is SO fun.
But, there are a few hang ups. There’s no online portion – not a deal breaker when the local option is so fun but still, would have been nice. There’s also no bot mode. You can play the multiplayer maps on solo but it’s just you and no one else on the map.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure combines the new hotness with old school classics to come up with something unique. Sure, the unpredictable movement takes some getting used to, the combat is a little lacklustre in single player and the vehicle control is awkward but it does far more right than it does wrong. My kids have had as much fun just Unboxing around the maps as I have completing the races and sniffing out hidden stamps. Prospect Games have delivered a great 3D platformer and a decent multiplayer party game. Whether you’re a seasoned platforming pro or a 4 year old who like to watch a box fall of a cliff, repeatedly, you’ll likely find something to love in Unbox.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is available now on PC via Steam and July 26th on PS4 (review version) and Xbox One. The game will be releasing on the Nintendo Switch in the near future.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a copy of the game from the publisher. If you’d like to know more about how we review games, please visit our review policy.