As 3D platformers such as Snake Pass and Yooka-Laylee have started to make a resurgence this year, problems with the genre that were hidden behind massive walls of nostalgia are becoming more noticeable. Memories of finicky cameras, over-sized worlds and gimmicky control sections are starting to resurface as the genre makes a comeback, and new 3D plaformers are falling victim to some of these these issues. Unfortunately, while Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure has a unique premise and fun control scheme, it fails to escape from some of the trappings of lesser games in the genre.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure has a unique premise and fun control scheme, it fails to escape from some of the trappings of lesser games in the genre.”
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure has one of the more interesting premises in recent memory; players control the titular Newbie, a customizable, super advanced self-delivering box. Newbie works for the Global Postal Service, which is ran out of “Other Base,” — a location clearly styled after Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The game has quite a few other unique and charming references to previous games, but they stay funny and never get overbearing or annoying.
The goal of the game is to venture to quite a few different areas, completing tasks and collecting stamps to ultimately defeat the evil Greaser-inspired “Wild Cards” which is led by Boss Wild. It’s a pretty offbeat premise, but Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure does the most it can with it. While the story took itself too seriously at a couple points, and a couple of the jokes missed, it mostly comes out really solid as a serviceable framing device to bring Newbie to new places.
The “self-delivering” aspect of Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure adds a uniquely refreshing spin to traditional 3D plaforming. Movement is very loose, as it simulates the feeling of a box rolling. Unlike most platformers, jumping is actually mapped to L1. While this may seem awkward at first, its placement actually complements another jumping ability that is mapped to R1 — unboxing. Unboxing give Newbie an extra jump, and players can do it up to six times, making it both easy and fun to traverse massive distances.
If you do come across the pesky Wild Cards, Newbie can slam to the ground, knocking enemies out. Players can also pick up special power-ups such as fireworks that can be used to fight enemies. Enemies also have special weapons that can hinder Newbie by doing things such as sending him flying into the air by attaching balloons to him. Combat is never really difficult, but can still be fun nonetheless.
Occasionally players will have the chance to take control of vehicles, however they handle horribly. They use tank controls, but are somehow also very slippery and loose at the same time. I usually avoided these if I could, because jumping and unboxing throughout the world was much more fun; but in the end, I just wish this game had learned from its inspiration that poorly done gimmicky controls like these usually only hurt the game.
Traversal is one of the most fun aspects of Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure. While the controls may take a bit for some genre veterans to get used to, once you get into the flow of things and start building momentum, movement is actually very fun and rewarding.
Combat is only the tip of the iceberg though, as like most 3D platfomers, Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is a collectathon. The main thing to collect around each world is stamps, which function similar to something like Stars in Super Mario 64. Across all of the game’s environments, other boxes wait with certain missions or challenges for Newbie. These tasks, which can vary from playing hide-and-seek with some younger boxes or clearing the Wild Cards out of a town, can sometimes be very frustrating, but are all doable. There are also hidden stamps for players to find, but these highlight the game’s biggest issue.
There are three main areas for players to explore in Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure: Paradise Isles, Parcel Peaks, and Isla Cartulina. These areas a tropical island, snow, and jungle themed respectively. While areas are impressive in size, the levels, most notably Parcel Peaks, ended up feeling quite samey to me. I’d often lose my way when exploring as it can sometimes be very hard to tell where you are in the world because it all looks so similar.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure would have benefited from a map, as it would have at least helped me get a better feel for where I was and where I needed to go in each world at any given time. There is a waypoint system for the big individual challenges, but later on in the game you are required to find the aforementioned hidden stamps in order to progress. To that point, I felt the world wasn’t always well designed enough for me to naturally find where the hidden stamps were. The little hints I could get for each hidden stamp really didn’t help either because, as I mentioned, much of each map looks similar to each other.
When I was moving around nonstop, building momentum, taking on Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure’s challenges, I had a ton of fun with the game. Unfortunately, when I was forced to sniff out required secrets in samey looking and not cleverly designed areas, my fun with the game grinded to a halt.
That is why I had the most fun finding the optional Golden Tape collectibles, and freeing Zippies (which are other Cardboard boxes) from the Wild Cards. They were both placed in areas that encouraged exploring, and never halted my progression because I didn’t find enough of them in an area. It’s in this aspect of game design that Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is able to replicate the charm of its 3D platformer inspiration, and ensures that this title will keep completionists very busy… even if they may get annoyed when finding a couple of the stamps.
The game also has a couple of technical problem. Due to the size of the game’s worlds, loading times were lengthy (sometimes even longer than a minute) just to travel between areas. The framerate would also chug semi-frequently when just traveling the world, but could get worse when a lot was going on on-screen.
The technical problems weren’t enough to be game-breaking and could be patched out in the future, but they were certainly noticeable. The camera does have three different settings, which sometimes helps, but it could still sometimes be a pain to control, and could get pretty annoying in smaller areas.
Keeping with the game’s classic platformer feeling, Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure also features split-screen multiplayer, which includes separate modes like Delivery, where players race each other, Oddbox, where players must attempt to catch another player that is marked as the titular Oddbox. These modes can be very fun with friends as it puts more emphasis on the game’s highly unique controls, but it most likely won’t overtake the time spent in single player for anyone.
As a fan of 3D platformers, I wish I liked Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure more than I did. The game can be very enjoyable, as the premise and story are pretty wacky, and the controls are highly unique, but still easy to get used to and understand. Some of the basic stamp challenges and finding some collectibles in traditional 3D platformer fashion does scratch the itch that went ignored by games for so long.
Unfortunately, it falls into some of the same old trappings of the genre that prevent it from joining the great 3D platformers that it is clearly inspired by. Some worlds are larger than they needed to be are Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure’s biggest bane; the game may have benefited if it had smaller and more concise areas. As it stands, if you are a fan of 3D platformers and are intrigued by this game’s unique control scheme, it’s worth giving a shot — just be aware that it can fall victim to some of the genre’s more frustrating problems.