Life story

the story of your life in boxes

Fforget what Forrest Gump noted. Life is not like a box of chocolates but rather boxes of everything. There are many events in life that can be considered universal in varying degrees, but I would bet everyone has lived at least once in their life, if not many times, it is the ordeal of moving and to pack his life in boxes. It is for this reason that Unpacking should resonate with anyone.

Fortunately, developer Witch Beam has taken all the stress and hassle – not to mention the daylight flight costs – that come with moving and instead focuses on the ritual of moving into a new home by unpacking and packing. putting goods in their rightful place. Everything is done in a surprisingly cool way, enhanced by the warm pixel art and charming soundtrack, while surprising you with a calm yet moving story.

Although you are told the year of each scene, there is hardly any text otherwise. Instead, the story is told through the rooms of a house or apartment you’re in, and whatever is in your boxes. The beauty is, you don’t know what’s inside those boxes until you click on the box, although when you go from just unpacking a room to an entire apartment, the boxes are usually grouped together in the appropriate category. Once you take something out, it’s up to you to determine where it goes. Should it take a prominent display, tossed in your desk drawer, or perhaps hidden like a secret under your pillow?

Do you carefully consider where a toy figure goes to have a few more vying for space and attention? Or maybe why not take them all out all at once, leave them scattered on the floor, and then just put things together? To give an idea of ​​the hectic process of the move, you can sometimes even find things mixed up in other boxes, like finding a pair of shoes in the boxes in the bathroom.

While you have a backup file that requires you to put your name on a photo album, and you have some degree of freedom over where to put the items, this isn’t meant to be as expressive and customizable as to decorate your own home in Animal crossing. It’s basically someone else’s story and these goods are theirs, but what makes Unpacking wonderful is the way this story is told literally through every element, no matter how mundane, providing a glimpse into the character’s life off-screen.

Unpacking. Credit: Witch Beam.

Across different scenes over different years, you will notice familiar possessions like a favorite plush toy that may have been kept for sentiment, while new and acquired gadgets or others do not stand the test of time. . The build-up of Nintendo consoles and games – not officially of course, but the pixel art detail is such that you can even recognize some of the gaming cases – which would make Unpacking arguably the best solution for the Nintendo Switch, even though it is so instinctive to click on each item with a mouse.

Besides the fun stuff, the following settings also reflect an adjustment to adulthood, as possessions start to include more adult things like document files and logs, basic cooking utensils, and toiletries. I think it’s also essential that none of these items are tagged with text – it feels like a real part of adulthood when you’re trying to figure out all those basic household items that are taken for granted.

A good thing then is that the pixel art for the hundreds of items you see in Unpacking are all recognizable, and while you still don’t know what’s really in that box or can, over time you’ll at least know if it belongs in the bathroom or the bedroom. Additional details are also welcome, such as how a folded shirt will turn into a hanger, or how a fully unwrapped box folds up neatly. What deserves special mention is the exquisite sound for each item that you can hear when you put an item down. You could be forgiven for not recognizing a bundle of cutlery at first glance, but once you hear that metal clatter, you don’t go wrong.

Unpacking. Credit: Witch Beam.

Having so many boxes to unwrap in multiple rooms can seem overwhelming, much like the opposite of blank canvas syndrome, but the more you step into them the act of tidying up becomes very therapeutic, as another object placed is another step to make every room more pleasant like at home. The fact that you can just take your time also means that there is no real pressure or challenge. Maybe the only item that might seem a bit forced is that some items need to go to specific places to complete the segment, and when everything has been unpacked, the misplaced items are highlighted with a red outline until what you figure out where they should go, sometimes requiring rearranging items you’ve already sorted. It can seem a bit arbitrary at times – and who can say I shouldn’t have dishes in my room? – although thankfully this requirement can be turned off in the pleasantly robust accessibility options as well.

Where there is more of a challenge comes narratively when you share a living space with other people, analyze the best place to store your belongings to feel like you belong, and see if other people’s belongings can or. no take another place. I won’t develop much further because the wonderful arc of how this person’s life and circumstances change is crucial to self-discovery. Suffice to say that it is almost certain to have an emotional impact, which can affect each person differently.

For me, it was the sad realization that in my own time with the roommate, I never had the opportunity to live with like-minded people, and I never had the luxury of a space shared living, not when greedy landlords turn living rooms into another bedroom to squeeze more rent. For some, these isometric pixel virtual living spaces may spark envy, or maybe hope, it’s a life you can make for yourself someday. Whatever your feelings, the afternoon or evening spent playing Unpacking might just make you realize that what you have isn’t just stuff.

Unpacking launches for PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One on November 2. Revised on PC.

The verdict

Unpacking takes a simple and relevant task and turns it into a meditative and comfortable experience that makes the art of environmental storytelling interactive. While the visuals, music and period artifacts certainly make you nostalgic, it’s the quietly revealing story of the life you’ll unbox the possessions of, and the joy it inspires, that makes it one. the best surprises of the year.


  • Brilliant blend of gameplay with storytelling told only through space and objects
  • Stunning detailed pixel art with equally excellent noise
  • An idea that will resonate with everyone and is just as accessible to play

The inconvenients

  • The puzzle element looks a bit arbitrary (but can also be ignored)

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