With games like Yooka-Laylee, Snake Pass, and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, the 3D platformer has witnessed an unexpected revival in 2017. Although big in the nineties and into the noughties, the genre lost ground as others – such as the online shooter – swept in to captivate the masses. However, there’s now this increasing demand for nostalgic throwbacks and developers, many of them based in the UK, have been happy to oblige.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure stars the titular Newbie as the first of a brand new self-delivering box. It’s almost certainly the kind of future that Amazon have planned for us after they’ve perfected drone deliveries, but here the boxes have gained sentience, with a city slicker styled Boss Wild and his Wild Cards looking to take over the world.
Every platformer needs its own little twist, whether it be a grappling hook, a time-stopping device or something that allows players to traverse or manipulate their surroundings in some way. For Unbox, that twist is far less complicated. Where fans of the genre should be more than acquainted with the “double jump”, here you can do it total of six times, as Newbie boosts out of one layer of cardboard like boxy matryoshka doll.
It’s an incredibly simple revision, though one that allows players to explore the game’s sprawling worlds without the usual tedious legwork. As you propel your little box through the air it will gain momentum and travel even further with each bounce. This can take a while to get used to, but it ultimately feels more liberating and relaxed than most platforming mechanics. The only downside here is a lack of precision when attempting to land on or in a specified target area. The speed at which you roll can also cause problems when navigating finicky paths, though there are ample checkpoints scattered around.
Instead of hopping between stages, Unbox has you exploring a handful of worlds, each crammed with its own raft of collectables to grab and missions to beat. Your ultimate goal is to find and collect stamps, unlocking boss battles and new levels. These stamps can be earned by completing races, challenges and puzzles, giving players plenty to do besides exploring. In terms of difficulty, Unbox is clearly aimed at a younger, more casual audience, yet it still requires a certain level of speed and skill.
While the basic platforming is fun, there’s are parts of Unbox that feel padded out. For every cool tower there is to climb or hidden area to uncover, there’s a lot of empty space where not much is happening. NPCs and enemies are scattered around to make these worlds seem busy, but they’re mostly window dressing.
The combat is also fairly ropey and is mostly centred around a fairly inaccurate air stomp attack. There are rocket power-ups too, though the way you aim and fire them always seems a tad hit and miss.
Though it’s a nice looking game, Unbox doesn’t have the same look or presence as those 3D platformers of old, but it’s still a nice looking game. Where Yooka-Laylee and similar games have been evocatively stylised, there’s a certain plainness to this game outside its cast of cardboard characters. Still, Unboxed is very well polished with a great diversity between the different environments. Most importantly, it’s bold, vibrant, and upbeat, never taking itself seriously.
Those who have friends and family to play Unboxed with will get a lot more mileage from Unbox thanks to a fairly robust suite of multiplayer options. This is one of the few games for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that allows four player split-screen, offering a variety of party modes to cause all sorts of chaos in
- Platforming fun at its simplest
- Ideal for young/casual gamers
- Satisfying feel to the movement and unboxing mechanic
- Upbeat, humorous vibe
- Splitscreen modes for up to 4 players
- Looks nice but isn’t as stylised as other platformers
- Platforming can be finnicky when attempting to land on certain obstacles
- Combat is ropey
Unboxed: Newbie’s Adventure will be a pleasant surprise for many 3D platforming fans. Although fairly unassuming, it offers a simplistic, lighthearted approach to the genre with hours of fun to be had.
Version tested: Playstation 4 Pro
Nice review, the game looks and sounds like a lot of fun and I feel even more drawn to it after listening to the podcast interview with its creator. Looking forward to getting this on Switch.