Spe­cial de­liv­ery: a soggy, banged-up, bounc­ing card­board box


PC, PS4, Xbox One

Move over, Ama­zon drones. Un­box’s Global Postal Ser­vice would like to present the real next-gen of ship­ping so­lu­tions: the self-de­liv­er­ing box. You’re the lat­est pro­to­type of this revo­lu­tion­ary en­deav­our, a card­board cube ca­pa­ble of self-pro­pelled mo­tion. You bob­ble along awk­wardly, but at a sur­pris­ing lick, and are blessed with sur­pris­ing agility for an ob­ject that’s all straight edges and sharp cor­ners. You can jump with a tap of the right trig­ger, and with a squeeze of the left one you’ll per­form the tit­u­lar ‘un­box’, shed­ding an outer skin for a burst of mid-air mo­men­tum in what is surely the most oddly con­ceived dou­ble-jump in videogame his­tory. Or hex­tu­ple jump, if you’re so minded.

The un­box can be per­formed six times be­fore your sup­ply runs dry, and pro­vided you’ve built up enough speed be­fore set­ting off you can com­fort­ably tra­verse the lengthy ex­panses of wa­ter be­tween is­lands in the first of Un­box’s worlds, Par­adise Is­lands. Your stocks can be topped up with health pick­ups, or re­plen­ished at one of the gen­er­ously spaced post-box check­points, but in be­tween this is a game of care­ful man­age­ment of your sup­plies. Your only of­fen­sive ma­noeu­vre is a ground pound, which stuns en­e­mies; when prop­erly placed it can knock ag­gres­sors off plat­forms or into the sea. But largely this is a game of es­cap­ing trou­ble, rather than dis­patch­ing it.

Un­less a mis­sion de­mands oth­er­wise, any­way. One en­dows you with a hom­ing fire­work launcher with a pleas­ingly gen­er­ous auto-aim, ask­ing you to take out rooftop snipers within a time limit. Oth­ers are more tra­di­tional 3D-plat­former fare, and are oddly sat­is­fy­ing de­spite the po­ten­tial for frus­tra­tion inherent in build­ing a plat­form game around a card­board box with ex­ag­ger­ated real-world physics. It’s a zippy, un­ruly thing, cer­tainly, but it’s tremen­dously re­spon­sive, and there’s a silly lit­tle thrill in ar­rest­ing mo­men­tum just in time be­fore your avatar drops into what would, for a card­board box, be a fa­tal swim in the crys­tal-blue sea. And through­out, the multi-jump me­chanic has you think­ing about the space around you in in­trigu­ing ways. One quest-giver asks you to trek to the top of a high tower. Fol­low­ing the path means nav­i­gat­ing a tricky se­quence of ob­sta­cles – how many of them could you by­pass by sim­ply un­box-jump­ing up the side?

Four­player splitscreen mul­ti­player sports a sim­i­larly novel spin on con­ven­tions. It’s a pacy, mad­cap blend of rac­ing, plat­form­ing and shoot­ing with play­ful, slip­pery physics and wan­ton en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion. Mod­ern stan­dards dic­tate that Un­box’s mul­ti­player mode should be on­line-en­abled. How­ever, Manch­ester stu­dio Prospect Games is stay­ing true to its roots and, cur­rently at least, is lim­it­ing the game’s mul­ti­player com­po­nent to play­ers in the same room. Yet for all the nods to the past, Un­box feels oddly new – and for more than just its Un­real-pow­ered physics. While it’s far from the first con­tem­po­rary in­die game to take its in­spi­ra­tion from the golden age of 3D plat­form­ers and four­player splitscreen, the plea­sures of its novel take on the genre con­ven­tions of player move­ment, and the slap­stick com­edy of its physics, mean this is no mere call­back to its de­vel­op­ers’ child­hoods. Yes, there are nods to the likes of Kata­mari Da­macy, Su­per Mon­key Ball and any num­ber of 3D Mario games, but Un­box has an iden­tity all of its own – and it’s rather more ap­peal­ing than its drab card­board ex­te­rior would have you be­lieve. While the state of the par­cel’s con­tents may lead the re­cip­i­ent to ques­tion the mer­its of a self-de­liv­er­ing card­board box, the game it­self is in fine shape.

It’s rather more ap­peal­ing than its card­board ex­te­rior would have you be­lieve

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