Did I want to like Need a Packet?
I really did. In fear of that snobbery of the art world and liking something just for the absurdity, there’s something unique and relatively high concept about some of these low-key indie titles that you can find here on TBG. Vasilis and Infini are two unique titles – the second of which I enjoyed, but these type of games are definitely an acquired taste. Need A Packet?, I feel, will further pinpoint a niche audience. It’s quite trying and incredibly monotonous in the early stages that if your patience levels are relatively low, there’s no chance you’ll stick this out.
You play the role of Molly, a supermarket cashier who lives the most depressing life: wake up, get dressed watch the news or cooking shows on their mobile while commuting, then serving a mixture of frustrated, blunt and grumpy customers. Some of them are nice, though. The meat and potatoes of the game involves selecting the items the customer wishes to purchase, running them through the till and taking the correct payment and handing them their change respectively. If this checkout operator simulator sounds dull, it is. However, I stuck with it and day after day of non-existence the difficulty steadily rises.
Instead of one or two items, customers are now buying in bulk and items that need weighing, and you manually inputting their price, or decide whether a customer can purchase alcohol or not. Some customers fail to pay you the correct money, so you have to give them a nudge and serve as many as possible before the timer runs out. Oh, and don’t forget to ask them if they want a packet, a.k.a. a bag for their goods. Fail to give them a packet when they request it, or some other mistake, and after a few strikes, you’re out. Well, you get docked your earnings. Without knowing too much about the game, I had the feeling this was going to continue, but suddenly, it started getting weird.
Molly starts hallucinating, and her world starts to fall apart.
Aha – the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more on the fluffy unicorns and dolphin rainbows spectrum than being a negative Nelly, but that’s what stands out about these games: an underlying darkness and mystery sometimes explainable, other times, it messes with your head. Like Molly’s. Unfortunately, Need A Packet? doesn’t go anywhere. Other than the increasing difficulty of the shop, and depending on if you opt for the easy mode or not (you’ll get a bullet hell experience on the bus trip to work), the game loses its direction with its message, if there is one, and instead puts emphasis on the monotony of doing the same thing day in, day out. I’m sure we can all relate to that in some way, but whether you can or not, chances are you won’t connect with Molly. She’s very one-dimensional and just seems intent on not being late for work, and I wonder if she had a screw loose before heading to work anyway.
There’s an underlying environmental theme throughout the game too. Each time you sell a packet, it accumulates in your house as a full bin bag. That’s logic for you. Is the game saying that it’s your fault for doing your job and selling plastic to your customers who ask for it, or do you refuse them and receive a pay cut? What’s the pay for anyway? Well, you can spend your hard-earned dough on upgrades for your house and a few other pointless things. I say pointless as whether you improve upon your home or not, you don’t get to enjoy it as you have to take off to work once again, or head into the kitchen and watch the rats come to stay, nibbling away at the trash bags. Yeah, it’s pretty bleak.
What did I like about the game?
Well, once again, the concept is a pretty good one and very relatable; we all experience those bad days at work – or perhaps bad periods being stuck in a particular role, held in a rut and on the verge of going insane. Well, maybe that’s being a bit dramatic, but you get the idea, and it’s a story we can work with. However, there’s no real flexibility with the title and a linear experience. We don’t get to dive deep under her skin, and it all feels rather meaningless.
When it comes to presentation, the graphics are pretty raw. I didn’t hate them, but they didn’t do much for me either. It reminded me of the days of the Spectrum, albeit with the attached nostalgia of the title. I must stress that the soundtrack was excellent. Appreciating that Need A Packet? wasn’t going to be a title to play with the family, I played this late at night with headphones. If I hadn’t, I might have missed the score as it’s quite understated, which is a shame as it was a highlight. However, this isn’t a rhythm game, so the music alone can’t save this unusual title. I didn’t hate, it, I just didn’t get it and came away feeling indifferent.
I’m not entirely sure how best to sum up the game. It’s not exactly horror, nor is it a strategy game or character-driven story. It’s a mixture of a lot of little things, but not one aspect stands out enough to stamp with an endorsement. I can’t even say who this is for either. While it’s not a triple-A and reasonably priced and all, there are other games in the price range I would recommend over this.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo
Release Date: 24/07/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Platformer, Sim, Puzzle
Developer: Marginal act
Publisher: Sometimes You
Download link: eShop