Unpacking (2021)

Unpacking is a very simple game, that tells what I believe is a personal story of the developer’s life. No real text or words show up in the game, and it’s all through context that you get the idea of what is happening.

Just like the title suggests, Unpacking revolves around the activity of unpacking moving boxes in a room/apartment/house. Starting off with a single bedroom, you control a mouse cursor and must click on a packaged moving box to open it up. With each click will bring out a new item and your goal is to find the proper place to put the item in. That’s it. And there is a lot of room for customization, just like with everyone’s house. You can either put everything away nice and neatly, or toss stuff anywhere you want it as long as the bigger items are roughly in the places they should be. Things like laundry hampers and pots and pans need to go in specific areas, same with utensils and bathroom supplies.

My only major gripe is the fact that this is a small indie game, and like clockwork, the game slowly introduces the notion that the “character” you are playing through is a lesbian. Once out of college you move into a very sleek and stylish apartment that a man clearly lives in, then only in the next level you move in with a woman. Then you continue living with that woman. It’s just another annoying gay trope that keeps getting shoehorned into these games to force us to deal with homosexuality that I am 100% against and hate that it’s so prominent in games.

Each level takes place in a certain year of the character you are technically playing as. You start out as a young teenager in a single room in the year 1997, then move on to a little bit of a larger room as you enter college a few years later, and then progress until you have a full house in the year 2018.

The game is short, roughly around 2ish hours depending on your unpacking style. I usually opened a single box in a room and took out an item one at a time and found it’s proper place for that item, never really trying to make it look perfect, since it really doesn’t matter. But as I kept moving on, I tried switching up my unpacking style. Sometimes I’d open a box and pull out every item in that box and place it on the ground. Once the box was completely empty and removed, I’d start focusing on putting everything on the floor away. Only a couple times did I open more than one box at a time. Also, shoving things in drawers and closets just to get them out of sight totally works too.

I had a decent time with the game, and while I found the game a bit too frilly and the lesbian shoehorning did really sour my feeling toward the game, I did enjoy the very relaxing quality of unpacking moving boxes and finding that there is a place for everything in a house. Having moved earlier this year and having to do it in real life, I know that unpacking can be both overwhelming and relaxing at the same time.

And as a final note, let me say this: the character in the game has no idea how to pack well at all. There are plenty of boxes where similar items are divided into multiple boxes and some of those boxes are in the wrong locations. Why would a cup be in a box that is in the bedroom and in a different box than where all the other cups are?! (Yes, I know, it’s probably just to make the gameplay more challenging and interesting by providing a situation for the player to overcome… but… come on!)