It's no secret that the Royal Mail can be a little… unreliable at times, with lost letters, mauled parcels and missing orders being an all too common occurrence. With mega retailers like Amazon currently looking into delivering all your urgently needed goods by remotely piloted drone, it certainly seems there's going to be all sorts of new ways for getting parcels from A to B in the near future. And, as it turns out, Unbox: Newbie's Adventure a platformer that's all about another.
In the land of Unbox, the somewhat useless Global Postal Service keep losing their parcels, and it's put them in a spot of bother. With customers leaving in their droves, it won't be too long before the company end up going bust - but that's where you come in. As part of a brand new, top secret project, you take on the role of the titular Newbie - a self-delivering cardboard box, who has to single handedly head out into the wilderness to save GPS from bankruptcy, and squash the scourge of a band of rogue rebellious boxes known as the Wild Cards along the way. But it appears that even the Global Postal Service isn't quite what it seems either…
Rather reminiscent of the classic platforming adventures of the 90s - think Banjo-Kazooie, Jak & Daxter, Mario 64, or even the more recent Yooka-Laylee - Unbox gives you a number of huge open worlds to explore that are crammed full of challenges, collectables galore and secrets to discover. Spread across three different areas, from beachy islands to snow-capped mountains and tropical rainforests, you'll meet a whole raft of quirky boxes who need your help, while 200 reels of gold tape are also scattered around each world, begging to be collected. Each mission you complete for the boxy residents awards you a stamp (as does stumbling on a hidden stamp out in the wilderness), and earning enough stamps will let you take on the world's boss in a crate-stamping, firework-flinging, unboxing boss fight, where victory opens up the next world for you to explore.
As you might imagine though, getting from A to B as a box isn't as easy as you'd hope - with lots of corners, and lots of straight edges, you'll bounce around a heck of a lot. Then there's the fact that you don't actually have any legs - which in a game about platforming, seems more than a bit of an oversight on GPS' part. Luckily, your little box has a few other useful tricks up its… sleeve? There's a fairly standard jump; a slam move that lets you stomp down to send out a shock wave to damage enemy crates, press buttons or break objects apart; and the titular 'Unbox' move, which makes crossing long distances child's play. Kind of like a double jump, but one you can do up to six times in a row - a sextuple leap we suppose - unboxing lets you get an extra boost of speed by tossing away one of your shells, Matryoshka doll-style. Great for scaling high cliff walls, skimming yourself across an expanse of sea or for tweaking a landing, learning how to use your unboxing powers is the key to success in Unbox, and something that lets you cover large distances in a few well-timed hops.
As you can probably tell, then, the world of Unbox is a light-hearted one, rife with humour and pop culture/game references, and there's great fun to be had wobbling your way through each of its worlds in search of challenges. Along the way you'll meet many a colourful crate, with each box having its own unique personality and quirks, from grumpy or depressive, to overly enthusiastic or just plain silly, there's rarely a dull moment, with Unbox's cute and quirky style being sure to raise a smile. Missions, meanwhile, see you doing everything from locating lost speedboat parts, to clearing up dropped mops from a snowy mountainside, to delivering a very strongly worded letter in an attempt to end a long-running feud.
One memorable challenge saw us scaling a rather precarious radio tower on a quest for a guy's lost hard hat, dodging flames, crushing walls and false floors while pulling off some nail-biting high-altitude leaps, in order to get it back safely. There may not be a huge variety to the tasks on offer, with many boiling down to simple fetch quests and the odd platforming section, but they're plenty of fun none-the-less - and, crucially, for someone fresh from the trauma of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, they're not anywhere near as masochistically challenging either.
Some missions, however, are memorable for all the wrong reasons, and that's because they revolve around battles. As you might expect, a box isn't really all that cut out for combat, and your sole attack here is a ground pound - a kind of splat attack that sends out only a small shockwave to damage any nearby enemies. It's perfectly fine in theory - however, in practice, you'll likely find that it's also annoyingly imprecise - something that isn't made any easier due to the fact your enemies are also boxes with a bit of an erratic roll about them too, making aiming especially tricky. Boss fights can feel like a bit of a shambles at times too, as the bigger and buffer boss boxes tend to be relatively unaffected by your attacks, so your only real option is to try to avoid them and pray they cock up somewhere along the way. You can also try and lure them towards explosive crates and/or trap doors and knacker them that way for a less direct confrontational approach, although in our experience, we were more likely to make a pigs ear of that and scupper ourself instead.
One of our favourite features in Unbox is that, as you complete various missions, you'll unlock new colour schemes and accessories for your cardboard box. Starting out as a boring manila box with nowt but a 'this way up' logo adorning your sides, you'll soon have a wardrobe of sombreros, moustaches and bunny ears (to name but a few) with which to glam up your box, as well as various different face designs for your frontage. We're currently sporting a fetching pink colour box, accessorised with a pair of bunny ears and blue spotty bow tie, topped off with a moustache - although we could equally go for perpetually-depressed Mope's badly-drawn stuck on paper face, a rubber swimming ring, reindeer nose and bobble hat too. What can we say? We have a thing for dressing up…
Local multiplayer mini-games are on offer too, although we'd recommend getting to grips with the main game first, as much of what you learn with regards to unboxing, slamming and the like is required reading when it comes to taking on pals. There's bog-standard races, contests to see who can collect the most gold tape, simple duking-it-out death matches, and a variation on playground favourite, tag, all of which can be played in glorious four player split-screen. While Unbox doesn't quite usurp Smash Bros. as our multiplayer game of choice when we have friends around, it's a nice enough addition to dip into from time to time, when you have a hankering for some cardboard-based fun.
If you're on the lookout for a light-hearted, quirky cardboard box-themed platforming adventure, then you can't really go wrong with Unbox: Newbie's Adventure. Packed full of things to do, and loaded with quirky characters, humour and references, Unbox is a budget-friendly title sure to raise a smile. Even if its slam-based combat is a bit hit and miss at times, it doesn't really mar the experience, making Unbox well worth a look if you've enjoyed similar old school-style platformers, like Yooka-Laylee, Snake Pass or even Crash Bandicoot.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4