I can’t recall a cardboard box ever being a subject matter that has ever drawn much excitement. Hence, worlds entirely populated by cardboard boxes doesn’t immediately feel like a compelling theme for a video game.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure was originally released under the title ‘Unbox’ for the PC back in September 2016 and since then developer Prospect has been working on improving the game ready for release under the new Newbie’s Adventure subtitle for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with a Switch version planned for later this year. Owners of the PC original can also rejoice, for you will be given access to the updated version for free once the game has launched.
In the game you play the role of ‘Newbie’, a fresh from the factory arrangement of the ubiquitous packaging material whose immediately tasked with saving the Global Postal Service (GPS) from a gang of boxes known as the Wild Cards. The game is a 3d platformer come collectathon, hence you’ll need to explore the games 3 different worlds completing challenges to earn ’Stamps’ which can be spent on accessing each worlds boss battle. Each of the worlds is populated by a collection of friendly Boxes, who task you with completing different challenges to earn stamps. Some challenges are simple races, where as others require you to collect items within a time limit or clear an area of all enemies. The more interesting challenges require you to complete platforming section, such as reach the top of a tower.
Newbies 6 faced geometry means that platforming plays out with about as much predictability as successfully guessing which way a rugby ball will bounce when it hits the ground, and is by far the games most interesting mechanic. As you roll about the world, there is a subtle jutting to contend with which requires you to constantly compensate with the analogue stick. Simpler sections, such as straight bridges, can prove tricky as you skip about and can often result in making a panicked jump to correct your course. Thankfully Newbie’s ability to ‘unbox’, which is a limited ability to jump whilst in mid air, comes in handy to help you tackle these hairy moments of traverse the games large environments. Once you have earned the required number of stamps, you’ll need to battle the worlds main boss which is how you are introduced to ‘Boss Wild’, the games main antagonist.
For veterans of the genre, everything will feel extremely familiar. Alongside the games primary stamps, there is also other trapped boxes to rescue, a huge number of ‘golden tape’ to find and diaries that can be found that try to add some background story to the game. There is also an offline multiplayer mode, although I didn’t myself have a chance to try this mode out due to a lack of any immediate and willing friends to play with.
Sadly however, like many other platforming collactathons it still firmly stands in the shadow of the greats of the genre. The game suffers from a lack of any overall narrative pulling all the components together, and as such each the games 3 worlds feels silo’d and isolated. Stamps collected in one level have no overall bearing on others, and as such backtracking to the games earlier worlds is completely irrelevant. The game also fails to develop as you progress, with each world repeating the challenges of the previous seldom offering anything new. I also failed to resonate much with the characters of the world, each of whom seemed to lack any memorable charm or charisma. At its core however, the platforming and exploration aspects of the game stand strong thanks to the challenge of the movement mechanic, which is genuinely unique compared to other games in the genre that I’ve played. Where unpredictable movement like this should be frustrating, it’s balanced out with the ‘unboxing’ ability and as such stands out against the mediocre backdrop.
Overall, Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is nothing more than OK, with just about enough going for it to appeal to platforming fans thanks to its quirky box shaped protagonist. For the completionist, there isn’t any obvious reason to return with the majority of collectables being peripheral, with no benefit beyond a number in the totals screen. Against modern re-imaginings it’s as not a bad effort, but sadly it still fails to capture the magic of those greats from the 90’s.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure was provided to us by the developer via a digital code for PlayStation 4.