That's what Unpacking is about. It's a uniquely emotional game that explores the themes of memory, nostalgia, and self-discovery and presents them in a charming, methodic fashion. The primary task of the game is to unpack boxes filled with memories and mementos, represented by objects ranging from articles of clothing to board games. It's really that simple. In fact, much of the game's beauty is in the fact that it's incredibly easy to pick up, put down, play, and replay. It's easy to learn, easy to control, and as it progresses...it's easy to relate to.
Delight is in the details
Unpacking's gameplay is straightforward but surprisingly engaging. You navigate different rooms and unpack boxes of items. The items you unpack are symbolic of the protagonist's memories and experiences, and as you progress you gain a better understanding of their life and the periods of time that shape who they become. The characters are merely abstract representations of people which enables you to connect with the game in a novel and personal way. Its atmosphere and aesthetic is made from soft colors, detailed 2D art, and a soundtrack that blends in the background. I smiled at seeing the microwave clock ticking, the cookies on the cookie jar, the buttons on the stove...just a few of the plethora of details that went into making the rooms you're unpacking feel focused and real while maintaining the isometric 2D style.
Close to home
I found myself chuckling, smiling, even smirking with empathy throughout points in the game. At times, the experience of unpacking items is hilariously close to real life. For example: the protagonist seems to never let go of any of their spiral sketchbooks throughout their life. Me too! More generically, you notice things like a seemingly juvenile t-shirt makes its way to a box you're unpacking in adulthood – a circumstance many can relate to. It's moments like these that make for a bundle of satisfaction and humor, and these moments are littered throughout the game. Emotionally too, you realize this game is as much about you as the protagonist themself. When you return home for a stint as a young adult your bedroom feels small – remember that feeling? When you move in with another character you have to sacrifice your space – remember that feeling? When you buy your first home you feel relief because of the space you have available to you – remember that feeling?
Sad but true
Unpacking suggests that our memories and experiences are what define us. Some of these are joyous while others are difficult to face. In life, however, choices are made, and paths are carved based on decisions we make, and we hold onto the symbols of those decisions and their outcomes in the form of materials and objects. Unpacking forces us to confront and come to terms with our protagonist's experiences that define them in order to understand who they are and how they are moving forward in life. It also reminds us that we must be willing to let go of hardships and challenging experiences in order to heal and grow, with the promise that what's next will be better, and in the end everything works itself out.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ : Good
This game is a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging experience that does as good a job as any in exploring the themes of memory, nostalgia, and self-discovery. It does so in such a fundamental way of relying on objects to learn, experience, and tell stories. It's beautifully presented and its minimalist approach – from mechanics to character development – makes it immersive for just about any type of player. Most profound, however, are the messages delivered in the game. They'll resonate with you long after you put it down. It's a short tale, and in many cases it lacks depth, but it's a game worth playing at least once. If it so happens to strike you as it did me, you'll likely play it again. And again.