Need A Packet? review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: Marginal Act
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I should have known that Need A Packet? was developed by Marginal Act. They’re the same developer that did Vasilis, a slice of Eastern European weirdness that arrived on consoles earlier this year. Need A Packet? is also a strange, grotesque-looking game that’s kind of surreal and kind of baffling — in other words, it’s a lot like Vasilis.

There are slight differences between the games, though. Take the graphics, for instance. Vasilis was like a bizarre cartoon that felt like it lost something in translation. Need A Packet? is just plain ugly — intentionally so, since it’s trying to make a point about what it’s like working a dead-end, minimum-wage job, but it’s still highly unpleasant to look at.

The bigger difference is that I can actually compare Need A Packet? to something else — and, unfortunately for Need A Packet?, the difference isn’t at all flattering.

See, Need A Packet? reminds me strongly of Papers, Please, in that it’s all about performing mundane, repetitive tasks. The difference is that Papers, Please worked so well because it had an inherent tension to it. Yes, you were looking at paperwork all day — but you were doing it in the border control office of an authoritarian dictatorship, and failing to keep out the ever-changing list of undesirables could have grave consequences for you and your family.

Here? It shouldn’t be a surprise that scanning groceries just doesn’t seem as interesting or as life-or-death. That’s not to say that Need A Packet? doesn’t try hard to have a message. Indeed, it has a couple of them. The titular packets are plastic bags, and the more you give out, the more litter there is that shows up in your town. On top of that, the game also seems to want to be a critique of capitalism, saying that you lose your identity and your sanity the more you work in a stifling job like this, which it demonstrates by getting progressively weirder, with giant floating heads showing up around your cash, and bullet hell and tower defense sections that break up the monotony of your daily grind.

Are these valid points to make? Sure, particularly around the environment. Does that make Need A Packet? as impactful as Papers, Please? Not really, no, because it just feels like a bunch of weirdness thrown together, but not in a particularly compelling way. Ultimately, what stays with you longer from this game is less the message that the game is trying to get across, and more the fact it just has you doing mindless, repetitive tasks for very little payoff. It’s easy enough to get that in the real world, so it’s hard to see why you’d need to turn to Need A Packet? to get the same in a game.

Sometimes You provided us with a Need A Packet? PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: C-