STAFF REVIEW of Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure (Xbox One)

Friday, August 4, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure Box art It seems that back in the 90’s, platforming games were the go-to for hit titles, producing some instant classics like Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie among others. There’s been a slight resurgence of the genre, especially with Yooka-Laylee releasing recently, so I was interested on how Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure would hold up against others in the genre, as it’s been quite some time since I’ve played a great platformer.

The genre might not be anywhere near as popular as it once used to be, especially with the lukewarm reception Yooka-Laylee received, but I always enjoy a decent platformer, so I had high hopes for Unbox going in. I was surprised with how much charm Unbox had, as you play an adorable cardboard box (yes, you read that right) that rolls and hops his way across a huge adventure, complete with a silly, yet fitting, story premise. The beauty about the genre is that it’s generally quite easy to pick up and play without too much instruction needed to learn complicated mechanics, and it’s no different here either. The world and art style is very cute and welcoming, so the younger audience should have a fun time controlling Newbie even if there are some decent challenges within that will require some serious platforming skill.

You play as Newbie, an adorable cardboard box (it’s hard not to smile while writing that) that’s off on a grand adventure. In fact, every character is some sort of cardboard box, so it’s a unique world and setting right from the get-go. While it’s a typical ‘save the world’ type of narrative, kind of, it’s got a cute twist on the trope that seems to also fit with the adorable setting. The Global Postal Service (GPS) are sentient boxes that deliver themselves, but one day some of these boxes split and made a new faction called the Wild Cards, essentially turning into the ‘bad guys’. The Wild Cards are bent on stopping the GPS, so Newbie is set out to defeat their leader and bring the GPS back to its former glory. It’s a story that’s absolutely silly but feels fitting given the characters and backdrop. Given that Unbox never tries to take itself seriously, it simply works, and you don’t question it oddly enough.

Newbie may be a simple cardboard box, but he has the ability to move in any direction, jump and even unbox, which acts as a double jump of sorts (though you can do it up to six times). You move with the Left Stick and control the camera with the Right, pretty standard stuff, and it may seem like you’re controlling a rolling sphere at times, you need to remember that Newbie is a cube, so sometimes his movements won’t be a smooth as expected given his edges.

At the title menu you’re actually able to customize Newbie from a plain brown box to be outfitted with eyes, hats, clothes and accessories. There’s only a handful of options from the beginning, but as you progress through his adventure, you’ll unlock more customizable options, some being quite silly, again, adding to the charm of your own personal Newbie.

I found the unbox mechanic to be quite unique, as you’re able to jump with a single button press, but you can have a maximum of 6 unbox charges, allowing you to essentially double jump, up to 6 times in succession. Every time you unbox, a slightly smaller Newbie pops out of the box and is your new controllable Newbie, much like a Matryoshka stacking doll. Around the world you’ll find pickups that can replenish your unboxes, but his is how you’ll traverse to many difficult to reach places. It’s an adorable take on the mechanic, and you’ll need to be very strategic with how and when to unbox if you want to find all of the hidden collectibles throughout the world.

I’m not normally one to obsess over finding collectibles hidden throughout the world, but something about finding the 200 golden tape rolls had me searching high and low for as many as I could. There are also hidden stamps and prisoner boxes to rescue as well, so there’s plenty to accomplish if you’re a completionist. The core gameplay is you progressing through challenges so that you can earn stamps, allowing you to challenge the Wild Cards’ leader once enough have been earned. Some of these challenges are simple time limited delivery missions, others have you traversing tall buildings and more. You’ll notice after a handful of hours that many challenges eventually repeat and feel shallow, but that’s when I would go hunting for some golden tape as a slight distraction.

Many of the challenges are quite simple once you have a feeling for how Newbie controls, but there’s always the odd time that you’ll lose precious time from getting stuck in random places or the camera disorientates you, not uncommon to 3D platforming games. These challenges were easy enough for me to complete, save for a few, but quite challenging for my 4 year old daughter, so it will come down to your platforming skill.

My daughter loved being able to roll around as a box, but enjoyed customizing Newbie even more so once I unlocked silly accessories like goofy classes, bunny ears, and more. If you’re simply going to focus on the challenges and progress through the campaign, it can be finished in short work, so I highly suggest taking the time to do some collectible searching to add some length to the gameplay.

Newbie’s world is very colorful and inviting, putting a smile on your face when you realize you’re talking to cardboard boxes. There may not be any voice acting involved, as it’s simply Sims-like gibberish, but the writing is quite clever and there’s quite a few humorous lines contained within if you take the time to read the dialogue between characters. The soundtrack is also very fitting, employing a fleeting and lighthearted vibe that fits with the fun backdrop.

While there is a local multiplayer option included, I rarely have friends come over to game, so it was a little disappointing to see the lack of an online multiplayer component included, as I would have played for much longer if I was able to search for gold tape rolls with a friend online. Given the slightly high price tag for this type of game ($22.49 CAD), this would have added a lot of value and justified the asking price. There are some random bugs that I ran into such as framerate drops, getting stuck in odd places in the geometry, long loading screens and other minor issues, but these are more nitpicky observations. In general, Newbie plays and performs fine for the most part, but it will take some time to become accustomed to how to control Newbie with precision.

The genre may not be what it once used to be, but Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure proves that you can still create a fun and inviting game within its constraints. While it won’t reach classic status like Banjo-Kazooie, Unbox is a fun distraction that offers a decent amount of gameplay should you want to invest the time into it, all while being an adorable cardboard box. If you’re a fan of the 90’s platforming and have been yearning for another adventure, come meet Newbie and help the GPS, as it will most likely put a smile on your face.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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