The meticulously well-curated kitchen of someone who doesnt have the time of day for anyone else.Screenshot: Witch Beam
The game thats all the rage this week isnt a glimmering racing game or a gritty first-person shooter. Its not a massive expansion to a beloved life sim. No, the game of this moment is a delightful little puzzle game called Unpacking, which quite simply tasks you with the menial act of unpacking boxes. Ive been playing it the past few days, fully expecting Unpacking to feature some sharp, creative puzzles. I did not expect it to so effectively tell the chaptered story of a life without so much as a word.
Then I met the protagonists boyfriend.
Spoilers follow for Unpacking.
Unpacking plays out during a series of pivotal moves one woman goes through over the course of her life. During the first level, May 1997, youre clearly a kid, with your very own room and elevated twin bed, the works. The following level, January 2004, shows what appears to be a college dorm or a starter apartment. In each, your goal is to unpack boxes and place their contents in generally the proper area theyre supposed to go: clothes in the closet, silverware in the kitchen drawers, and so on. The challenge, such as there is one, is finding the space.
Through context clues in each stage, you can gather whats going on in the main characters life at the time. Law books on the shelf? Well, she must be in law school. GameCube lookalike packed next to a muted gold game case? Like the rest of us, she loves Wind Waker. Tums on the shelf and lower-back heat patches in the cabinet? Oh, shes 30 now.
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Read More:Hit Puzzle Game Unpacking Features 14,000 (!) Audio Files Replicating Ordinary Sounds
In September 2010, its clear the main character is moving in with some dude. Without even showing his obviously stupid face, you can tell this boyfriend character is just the fucking worst. (My colleague Luke Plunkett detailed a similar thought in his insightful review of the game.)
You can get an inkling of his personality by looking at the space: the all-grayscale dcor, the bourbon-flavored body wash, the guitar on the wall, the miniature sand garden on the bookshelf, the 50-pound dumbbells in the living room, the 96-inch canvas art of an abstract sunset, the sanitized meticulousness throughout. His home has all the hallmarks of a late-2000s bachelors pad, a pitch-perfect composite of the requisite jerks apartment from, I dont know, pick a rom-com from the era. In that sense, developer Witch Beam nailed it.
Weve all met this guy.Screenshot: Witch Beam / Kotaku
It was tricky to define a character solely through his home and items without leaning a little too hard into, This guy is just the worst, Unpacking creative director Wren Brier wrote in a recent Reddit AMA. I hope hes not too cartoonishly terrible!
He is, but its not because of his stuff. (Vanity isnt a sin. Neither is an interest in sleek design and fastidious cleanliness.) Its because he doesnt care enough to compromise.
September 2010 is the first level in which Unpacking feels truly cramped. Your thingsyour dolls, video games, and battered kitchen supplieswont fit within the confines of the levels default setup. Instead, you also have to move the dudes existing stuff around to make room. (Theres also the sense that youre invading someone elses space, given the mishmash in aesthetic tastes.) You eventually fit everything, but you do the entire task all alone. It is off-putting, to put it charitably, that this dude who was fully planning on moving in with someone didnt even bother to make an inch for his incoming partner.
Im at an age where some of my friends have hit the Were moving in together! chapter with their partners. Im not gonna put numbers to it, nor will I ascribe any specific reasons here, but a nonzero number of those friends are no longer living with their partners. In all cases, its safe to say these splits were the result of two parties unable to find a compromise.
Theres one object in Unpacking that you cant find any easy spot for, one that instantly reveals the depths of this guys tree-rooted stubbornness: your diploma. It doesnt fit on the bedroom walls. It doesnt fit anywhere in the kitchen. Though you have leeway to move most objects in his apartment, you cant move his fancy framed band posters to make room for your diploma on the gallery wall. The only possible place for it? Under the bed.
In the next level, June 2012, youre back in your childhood room.
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