Need a packet?

By Don Robbins

Need a packet? for the Nintendo Switch puts you in the job of a supermarket cashier who is slowly losing her mind due to her tedious, routine work.

It’s a mixed bag of a horror-simulation game that has both good points and bad. It addictively draws you into its world, but there are frustrating moments and elements to the gameplay. For fellow Americans like me who had no idea what a “packet” is coming into this game, I’ll let you in on a spoiler alert. A “packet” is a grocery bag, which you will be assigned to provide to store customers who choose one. You press the right analog stick each time you need to hand customers their bag.

The in-store gameplay consists of you repetitively asking each customer if they want a bag for their items, scanning their milk, toothpaste and other groceries, taking their money, and making change. Most of the transactions consist of repeatedly pressing the A button to advance.

I liked the fact that each customer had intriguing things to say and a variety of reactions. For example, one customer told the cashier, “You know, you never talk to me. It’s a bit rude.” Another customer declared, “No packets. They will kill you.” Then again, there was this store patron who exclaimed, “You shouldn’t sell packages. This is bad for all of us.”

 I was initially annoyed by the lack of a tutorial for the game, but after a bit of trial and error, I became accustomed to the main gist of most of the controls and story. Players also have the option to choose an Easy mode, or Normal mode, where the customers come at you faster with their grocery items.

There are three main segments to the game, inside the cashier’s home before she leaves for work, on the bus ride to work, and at her cashier stand in the store.

As she stands in her apartment waiting to put on her clothes in the morning, the stressed-out looking cashier exclaims, “I don’t want to be late for work.”

During the lengthy bus ride segment, the cashier watches videos of people making recipes for food items, complete with some apparently accidental spelling errors. For example, in one recipe, the word dessert is misspelled as “desert.” Toward the end of the bus ride, the game also has a strange “bullet hell” segment where you try dodge objects coming at you, but I found this part of the game extremely confusing without a tutorial and felt was an unnecessary element that did not satisfactorily contribute to the gameplay experience.

As you journey through this single-player quest, you’ll sympathize with the monotony felt by the cashier as she goes throughout her day, dressing for work, taking the bus and standing in front of the store’s checkout counter serving customers. The whole game has an overtone of sadness and frustration as the cashier attempts to survive her world.

Enjoyably challenging aspects of the game include matching up numerical price codes with certain fruits and vegetables to check them out. I thought it strange though, that when you suddenly hit the End of the Day segment, if you are in the middle of a transaction with your customer, it won’t let your complete their purchase before you go home. In real life, that would make a customer very upset.

Events of the game occur during the background of a garbage crisis in the city, lending the look of the landscape with a bleak quality. I noticed that the customers in Need a packet? wore masks in the store, and bus riders also wore masks. I found this appropriately fitting in with our current society’s COVID-19 global pandemic, which has created a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety. People and objects in the flat 2-D Need a Packet? game are hand-drawn in strangely grotesque ways, and the colors permeating the game include weird, somber gray, black and drab purple hues that I found haunting.

After analyzing the pros and cons of Need a packet?, the game gets a score of 6.2 out of 10. If you are passionate about sims or horror, and have patience for repetitive games, you may want to consider Need a packet? If this type of game is not up your alley, it may be in your interest to steer clear.

Thank you to Publishers and Developers Sometimes You and Marginal Act for the review code.

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