Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure (Switch) Review
3D Collectathon Platformers are in high demand again. Yooka Laylee brought it back into the mainstream, A Hat in Time recently released, and Mario Odyssey is just days away from release. Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure has the honour of being the first on Switch, which comes with a high degree of scrutiny.
In this genre, the main character and cast’s design are more important than the story itself, and this is where Unbox thinks outside the box – or rather is the box. Everyone’s a box. An intelligent self delivering package working for a shipping company going bankrupt. You are the new box in town, the most advanced box yet fittingly named Newbie. It’s not exactly further explained why it’s up to you other than main character syndrome, but considering I had to re-watch the intro cutscene to write this paragraph, it’s not much of a huge focus.
The main issues you need to concern yourself are collecting Stamps (Stars, Moons, Jiggies). These are achieved by completing challenges around the three worlds of the game or just floating around. While taking place in an open setting, you’ll need to activate the challenges from the NPC to activate the goal. This meant on the first world, I climbed a huge radio tower only to get up there with nothing to do. After falling down and interacting with the NPC, I was told he lost his hat and wanted me to climb back up. This combines the mission select style gameplay from Mario 64, while also keeping you inside the level a la Banjo Kazooie.
Challenges aren’t varied across the game however. Regardless what world you are in you will be climbing this, killing them, collecting these, win this race etc. The first world does a great job at explaining the structure and giving you that ease in you require for a game like this, and then world two copies the structure, for world three to conclude on it. Yeah, only three worlds in the game is a little low isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, worlds are huge, but kind of unnecessarily so. I quickly gave up collecting the 200 golden tape (music notes, coins), or finding the 10 caged zippies (Jinjos) as the environments became overwhelming quickly.
The goal of the worlds is to collect enough stamps to take on Boss Wild, the antagonist of the game. In addition to collecting stamps via challenges, you can also find them laying around the world and will need to find these to gather up the minimum required to take him on. In these huge worlds it’s easy to spend hours just jumping around hoping to stumble upon one, but thankfully there are some hints to where these are located. At the start of each world you can see visual hints of golden tape, zippies or the stamps making them slightly less awful to find. Once you get there, Boss fights are laughable, they barely feel different to normal enemies, and are in no way memorable at all.
Being a box, I would hardly say you control ‘smoothly’. You roll and bounce around as well as a cube would making tight platforming never feel ‘right’. Thankfully, in addition to being your hit points, you can use your health up to “unbox” yourself to get a second jump, or third, or even up to six more. While this is a fantastic gameplay mechanic, in challenges where you’re unable to unbox yourself, it becomes clear this was a way around the unconventional character control rather than an intentional mechanic. I did get used to the movement of the game, and I would never call it bad (okay, those vehicle sections with tank controls are horrible), I did find myself more frustrated than anything when you couldn’t use the unboxing mechanic as a lifeline. If you ever find yourself stuck, and trust me you will, you can always hold Y to respawn at any time.
Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure also features local multiplayer for up to four players. Weirdly enough this features completely different environments to that of the single player. So much so that to me, this feels like scrapped single player content made into multiplayer arenas. There’s so much variety of level design in each of the different modes It would have been amazing to see this in the story, but I digress. There’s 5 modes in total. Collect the most tape, shoot other people with weapons, become the Oddbox and run away from other players, shoot other players and steal their coins, and race to the finish line. It’s nothing super varied, and didn’t scream ‘fun’ either.
Going in we didn’t expect much and was more surprised by the addition of an FOV Slider, however even that didn’t stop the screens from feeling a little to cramped to either look where you were going or the ground – both wasn’t a luxury that was included. Whether it be for use in single player or multiplayer, collecting stamps will unlock new customisation options to fully personalise your own box. I’m not going to lie, I spent a little too long on these screens making my box as cute as possible – and rightfully so, I look adorable.
Performance wise, the game does stutter every now and then. Running in Unreal Engine 4, the game is fully physics enabled making real time explosions not only blast you around the level, but also bring down some of the destructible environments scattered around. I’m not 100% sure the need for this design decision, but for a game like Unbox, it seemingly fits into place. The downside of this choice means the frame rate is not exactly stable, and even less so in portable mode. As a frame rate snub like myself, it was never low enough or unstable to make me not want to continue with the game, however watching gameplay of other console versions it seems to run a lot better not on the Switch.
This leads me to the unfortunate trend coming with Switch ports, and Newbie’s Adventure is not immune here. $45 on the eShop is a steep increase from the $20USD on steam, or $30 on PS4. Even a physical copy on PS4 comes in at $40 – still cheaper than Switch. There’s also a physical version of the game coming out in November at a whopping $60, and at that point you’re asking only a few dollars less than Mario Odyssey. While this isn’t the game’s fault, or the developers, it’s an unfortunate situation to be in.
It’s hard to recommend Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure on Switch. It’s a good game don’t get me wrong, but with the ‘Switch Tax’ in full effect from the Steam/PS4 versions, and with Mario Odyssey just around the corner, it’s best to either grab this on another platform, or wait for a heavy discount if portability is a must for you.
Fresh take on 3D Platformer genre
Characters are surprisingly memorable for being actual boxes
“Switch Tax” strikes again
Only 3 world's + hub of gameplay