Unpacking one’s belongings after moving to a new place could be a stressful operation, but it could also be a zen-like, nostalgic moment: you see your life condensed in a box, you reminisce upon the memories that each item brings up and you assign a new home on a shelf or in a drawer for each of these memory shards. Unpacking manages to capture these feelings perfectly, conveying a relaxing and evocative experience, and delivering a subtle and emotional story that is told solely through its gameplay and environment, without words.

Each of the 8 levels in Unpacking represents a different stage in life and different living quarters to decorate. They spawn over a period of 21 years, starting from early childhood when the faceless protagonist first received her own room and ending in adulthood as a fully accomplished woman. As you pull the items one by one out of the boxes that are stacked in every room and find places for each of them, her life slowly unravels before your eyes: an ever growing collection of stuffed toys, a framed diploma here, an award later, some profession-related items that suggest an artistic career, or others that indicate the relationship status in that specific period of her life etc.

Apart from some specific cases, the objects are not interactive, and clicking them also doesn’t produce any text prompts but they subtly convey what happened in the time period between two sequential levels. I would normally think that reading a few carefully chosen words reflecting the thoughts triggered by picking up a certain item would be an enhancement to the gameplay, yet in Unpacking it’s vastly more satisfying to discover all the little details by yourself, and to assemble the whole picture from these pieces of information, like a jigsaw puzzle.

To some degree, the items have determined places or particular types of locations and after all the items are placed down, the ones with an incorrect positioning are highlighted with a red border. Rearranging things so that they fit in the spaces allocated is part of the gameplay and it also brings more realism to the game. For example, you don’t know beforehand how many clothing objects you’ll have to place in the wardrobe and how many available hangers there are, or how many books a certain collection has, therefore in the end you’ll likely need to move some of the items around. For those that prefer more flexibility, the strict positioning of the items can be turned off from the option menu yet this diminishes the puzzle aspect of the game.

Aside from the obviously gorgeous pixel graphics and the chill, tranquil gameplay, the feature I liked the most in the game was the ability to watch a replay of a level at high speed, with all the movements I made while solving it. Additionally, this can then be exported into a gif or a video.

Unpacking is not only a very relaxing game, but also a wholesome one and overall an extremely satisfying experience, especially for people like me, who enjoy living in an orderly environment. My only complaint about the game is that the asking price of $20 is too high for the 3-4h of fun that it offers – it would be great if more levels are added in the future and included in the same price, yet at the moment there’s no information about that. It does have some replayability value if you reset the levels, although replaying them does not bring anything new to the game. Unpacking features Steam-integrated achievements, the majority of which are awarded for doing things a bit differently than what you’d expect, yet still extremely trivial to obtain (by placing some of the objects in some peculiar locations).

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