It's a strange feeling, watching something become nostalgia-fuel in real time.

See, I came into gaming at the tail end of the SNES, into the N64. Which meant I played a lot, a lot, of run-around-collect-the-things platformers. It would not be inaccurate in the slightest to say that Rare had a massive influence on my youth, simply due to their pervasiveness in the genre and on the N64 in particular. For a time, this kind of game was everywhere.

And then, of course, the platformer largely died as a major force in the industry, first fizzling into kid games with a few standouts (like the Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank games) then finally draining into naught but Mario titles and memories. It was a while ago, now, when the 2D platformer came back, spurred by nostalgic memories of playing the NES classics, and proving there's enough market to make them worth producing once again.

But it's only now, in the last few years, that they've reached the 3D ones. The most famous example would of course be Yooka-Laylee, whose wildly successful Kickstarter brought the game industry back to this genre...And whose somewhat mixed reaction proved how hard it is to make these right, even by experienced hands.

Which brings us to today's topic. Unbox: Newbie's Adventure is, as you might have gathered, a 3D platformer very much in the vein of those Rare classics. You're gonna go around, collect tons of baseline objects, platform your way across the world, do odd little tasks to get the big important objects, and so on and so forth.

The chief spin that Unbox puts on it is in the main character and their world. You see, your hero (default name Newbie) is a box.

Just...a box. A self-motivated cardboard box, that can whip itself around. Unlike (most of) the other sapient boxes, you don't even have a face when you start the game, you've got to collect those...And that is a sentence that sounds much more disturbing when I just write it down and am not actively playing the game.

But I digress. You're a box, an employee-slash-property of the Global Postal Service, and their last ditch effort to keep the company from going under. Someone somewhere got the bright idea to take the human beings out of the package delivery equation, and just let the boxes deliver themselves, which I'm sure made sense at the time. Many boxes were produced, but with limited degree of sanity and intelligence, none could accomplish the task...until you came along.

This spin on the core character informs almost everything about the gameplay loop. You don't run, you kinda roll yourself along. Your jump is just sort of flinging yourself into the air, and your double-jump, an "unboxing" where you shed a layer of protective cardboard, doubles as your health meter. You can't properly swim, either, having a single bounce off of the water to get to safety, but a second dip in quick succession will just soak through and send you into the inky depths below.

The graphics are...Pretty good overall. They're not "oh my god my eyes have melted from the divine beauty I have seen" or anything, but they're definitely above "serviceable", and outside of some odd little rendering problems that would, for instance, make a road's normal texture replace the far-away texture(which is much blurrier due to being a small texture, much simpler, and also has bigger road lines so they stand out when you see the road from far away) aboooouuuut three feet in front of me, the game looks pretty dang good. It uses its somewhat simple aesthetic to good effect, and the world as it is is overall well-realized.

But you know how this works by now, with me. If I'm telling you stuff like the graphics this early in the review, it means there's problems. And the problems are...Well, they're interesting, actually, because they're so very small, but stack up to make the whole experience just askew enough to bug me. Much like I said when I mentioned Yooka-Laylee, it's kind of remarkable how damn difficult it is to get these games juuust right, and how noticeable it is if you're even a tiny bit off.

So, the first thing I want to touch on is the most technical, and the least interesting quite frankly. The camera's a little wonky. Sometimes it pulls in a little too close, or has to swing around an object in the environment, especially in enclosed areas. On its own, this wouldn't bug me much at all. But hey, we're in the problems part of the review, so I'm not gonna neglect to mention a problem just because it's smaller...Especially in a game whose recommendation was undone by the way small problems propagate.

The two really small problems that stack onto eachother, though, have to do with your box and its movement. See, your box doesn't just kinda move forward and run an animation cycle, it actually has physics that affect how it bounces and rolls. And this looks really slick, I'm not gonna lie. But, and this is key...It produces a layer of unpredictability in your movement. It makes it difficult to tell exactly how your jump, or your turn, or any other action is going to actually affect you in the moment-to-moment.

And this then gets intensified by a decision for at least the Switch port, and presumably the other console versions. Every time your box actively hits the ground, you get a little flicker of rumble. But when you combine this with the physics producing unpredictable results, you get these little buzzes that are just too random to actually tune out. And because they're often hitting right when the box is doing something not quite what you want it to be doing, they begin to feel like they coincide with unpleasantness. Like a reverse Pavlovian response.

From a critique and analysis standpoint, it's actually really interesting to wonder how much that single decision to bring in the rumble, and thus call attention to the box's quirks, may have affected my reaction to the game. Because I was all set to talk about how the game perhaps should have used a "spherical cow" approach of simplifying its physics reactions to produce more predictable results. But then I saw the Steam reactions, and some of the severely different ratings on Metacritic. And I can't help but wonder if the game's overall more positive rating on PC, could perhaps be down simply to the differences brought on by not having that rumble as a default assumption.

But, the thing is, I'm not reviewing the PC version. I'm reviewing the Switch version. And those little foibles and flaws do add up for me...Now, that said, there's a lot of game here. A lot of the environments are well designed, the challenges fairly interesting. If the controls don't end up bothering you, there's a lot to like.

Controls are, however, pretty fundamental. So that puts us where we are, the limbo between recommendation and the grim red sigil of Avoid. My advice? Find a way to try the game. Punch five minutes into it, see what you think. If rolling a box around doesn't feel natural by then, it's not gonna get much better.