Unpacking is a story puzzle game, where you move the girl into several different places throughout her life, watching her grow. It was released by Witch Beam, an indie game development studio, on November 2, 2021. Since then, it has been released onto six different platforms and has won the hearts of many.
Before talking in detail about the puzzles and the story, there are some things to know. Although this is a puzzle game, there are no timers or scores. The only repercussion, if you can call it that, is that the game will tell you when an item is in the wrong place. A colorful outline (you can pick one of four colors) will appear, and it will only go away once the item is in one of its rightful places. If you don’t want to deal with that while playing, you can change the settings so that it will allow items anywhere! It will take away the puzzle element of the game, but it’s still enjoyable.
After each completed level, as your progress saves, there is a cutscene: a picture of the room gets taken and put in a scrapbook. The picture will be labeled with a year and a caption regarding the character’s feelings about the unpacking process. This makes it possible to return to previous levels, but it also can show how much the character has grown. The game takes place in the years 1997-2018.
The familiar feelings of moving and unpacking are tied with nostalgia as the first level begins. The year is 1997, and you soon realize that you are unpacking the room of a girl, around the age of 10. You start to learn who she is and what she enjoys; art, music, video games, books, etc… There are a few items from this first move that she keeps throughout her life; some toys, art supplies, her dreidel, and more.
Below is a screenshot of how I completed the first level on my second playthrough.
The second level is set in 2004 when the main character moves into university, and with that, there are two new rooms to unpack: a bathroom and a kitchen! This level is a bit more challenging because, throughout the three rooms, the boxes can be mixed with stuff meant for the others.
Since this is the second level, we see more items that the main character keeps throughout the game: pots, pans, and (my personal favorite) the cookie jar!
The picture below is a screenshot of the kitchen for that level.
In 2007 our main character moves out of university and moves in with two of her friends! The apartment is big, so we now get a map to easily move between the five rooms. A map is now available on each level.
The main challenge of this level is being able to unpack everything and find the perfect space for it. You also can’t move your roommates’ items!
This level is one of my favorites, seeing how everything was put together made me remember what it was like to live with my two friends in college.
In 2010, she moves in with her boyfriend. The boyfriend lived by himself before because there is barely any room to unpack her belongings.
Here is where I started to notice a few details that made me love the game. The pig stuffed animal that she had since 1997 is without a ribbon and has a small tear on its belly. Since the pig is over a decade old and well-loved, it made sense that there was going to be some wear on it.
The mobile gaming console has changed too, being upgraded from a GameBoy. The saddest detail in this level is that the diploma can either be hung in the bathroom or put under the bed.
When the photo is put in the scrapbook, the caption I got is commenting on how little space there was for her.
Two years later in 2012, she moves back into her childhood home! On this level, there are only two rooms you can put items in, the bedroom and the bathroom. Her bedroom feels smaller than it was due to a combination of both growing up and having more stuff.
With returning to her childhood home, there are more differences. The Lisa Frank-inspired poster is slightly torn, the pig is duller, and her diploma is hung on the wall.
My favorite detail is what is on the corkboard. There are drawings and two photos of her loved ones, but there is a third photo that isn’t able to go with the others. The picture is of her and her ex-boyfriend, and the place it belongs is put away on a shelf so that it is out of sight.
She doesn’t stay for long in her parent’s house, because in 2013 she moves out! This is the first time that she is living alone, and there is so much room to unpack!
My favorite room on this level is the art room. It is delightful to see that she has a room dedicated to her passion. On the corkboard, she has childhood drawings of her beloved pig, which I like to think that they are there for inspiration. Her diploma is placed on the wall where she can see it, surrounded by art.
After two years of living alone, somebody moves in. I began to unpack the bedroom first because I wanted to know who our main character was dating! Once I began to unpack clothing, I realized, that her girlfriend is moving in! I love that there is LGBTQ+ representation in this game, only making me adore it more. Besides Stardew Valley, I don’t think I’ve played a game with LGBTQ+ representation in it, and it is great to see.
Knowing that the main character is well on the path to happiness after seeing her go through some rough patches was heartwarming.
On this level, the living room is my favorite. To me, it feels warm and welcoming. The bookshelf on the left is the best part; the chicken collection, all of their books, and imagery of the cities they’ve been to.
In 2018 there is one final room, the nursery.
While unpacking this room, you can tell how excited the couple is for the baby. The child isn’t even born yet and they have all sorts of toys and books for them.
The best detail in this room is that the baby is getting a new version of the pig, except it has a different colored ribbon.
I wish I had bought this game sooner. The art, attention to detail, and story were amazing. This game typically takes 4 to 5 hours to complete, and this is something you can play multiple times, finding new ways to fit everything.