The Gunk Review
In our review of The Gunk I won’t be giving any midgame or endgame spoilers. I will only give a brief description of the first half hour of plot as well as the characters and setting.
The main two characters of The Gunk are Becks and Rani. They’re space scavengers travelling the solar system in their spaceship, the Dust Bunny. They go to various planets to find resources to sell, and they’ve been doing this for the past five or so years. It’s implied that the two women have a significant amount of debt to pay off.
Becks drives the spaceship and Rani is the player-controlled character. They also have their robot, CuRT, who helps them with their other daily needs such as cooking.
At the start of the game you control Rani in a mysterious alien world. The artwork is very colorful and the developers did a terrific job of making a foreign world with very strange-looking foliage.
As you progress, you find out that the world is full of terrible “gunk” taking over all of the vegetation. Your goal as Rani is to clean up all of these areas by sucking up the gunk with her prosthetic arm, called Pumpkin. Pumpkin is extremely versatile, and has a scanner that you can activate as well as a vacuum gun to acquire resources from plants and metals around the world.
As the gunk is removed, the vegetation is naturally restored, which is useful because it’ll allow Rani to progress to new areas such as by jumping on new leaves that were formed.
The plot of the two characters being scavengers is interwoven into the gameplay. You use Rani’s vacuum gun to suck up different kinds of plants and rocks to obtain resources, which you will use to upgrade Rani’s abilities.
You can scan most objects in the game, from alien technology to exotic plants, and this will explain more lore of the world as well as unlock more upgrades for Rani. These upgrades can include increasing her vacuum gun’s speed and range, or upgrading Rani’s health to list just a few examples.
Not all scannable objects necessarily have resources, but most do and I had fun scanning every type of object once.
Materials are divided into different categories, including metals, organic, and alien resources. Usually it’s obvious which objects give which materials. For instance, if you’re looking for more metals then you need to use your vacuum gun on rocks. If you want alien resources, then you’ll need to kill aliens and take what they leave behind.
At first I was worried because all of the foreign landscape was so colorful that I thought that everything was going to blend in and be confusing, but thankfully the developers put yellow sparkles on resources you can collect, so you don’t need to needlessly use your scanner or vacuum gun.
The materials system in this game is not complicated at all and you’ll never have to grind. The game follows mostly linear levels, but there are often branching optional paths that lead to areas with extra materials for you to collect.
During my playthrough of the game I was able to get all of Rani’s upgrades with no problem, and the game is carefully designed such that if you miss resources you’ll still likely have enough to get the upgrades you need.
Becks and Rani are very interesting characters themselves. They’ve been a scavenger team for the past 5 years, but they have their differences in opinion every once in a while. I really enjoyed the banter between them throughout the game, which is the majority of this game’s dialogue.
You control Rani as the controllable character, but you can visit your spaceship base at any time and talk to Becks, and after big plot events every chapter or so you can get new dialogue from Becks, as well as CuRT.
Although the characters look cartoony (three fingers on each hand) and look young, I don’t necessarily think this is a game for kids and I don’t believe Becks and Rani are children either because Becks kept mentioning how much she wanted to drink beer.
Over the course of the game Becks’ and Rani’s relationship does develop and it’s handled very maturely. Even when the two get into a fight, they know that their mission comes first and that they’ll handle their personal issues later. There are undertones for a very serious plot and I was very impressed by it.
If you’re playing the first few minutes of the game and don’t like the muffled voice acting they did (they made the earlier lines of dialogue sound like the characters have their helmets on), then don’t worry because after the first ten minutes the voice acting becomes normal again with no muffled sound effect.
Although the gameplay may sound repetitive, it’s really not. All of the gameplay elements including using the vacuum gun to obtain resources, getting upgrades, platforming across chasms, and exploring these alien lands is very fun. Vacuuming all of the gunk in the areas is very fun, and although the vacuum starts off a little slow, you will improve your vacuum’s power as you progress.
There are also various plants you can vacuum, which have different effects depending on the species.
One plant can be vacuumed and transported, and when put into a green pool of energy it will grow and create a plant you can jump onto to reach new areas. In contrast, there’s another species of plant that immediately turns into a bomb, so you’ll need throw it at a destructible object or get rid of it before it explodes and hurts you.
All of these gameplay elements make for very fun puzzles, but they never get unbearably challenging.
The combat is very addicting and involves using the vacuum gun against the alien enemies. You can suck up the smaller enemies and shoot them at each other. There are plants you need approach directly to vacuum, and to do that you need to avoid their projectiles or shoot their own projectiles back at them to temporarily stun then.
There’s also a bull-type alien who charges at you, and you’ll need to avoid its charge and vacuum a vulnerable section on its back several times to defeat it. The gunk itself also counts as an enemy because some gunk can charge at you and hurt you if you come in contact with it.
Unfortunately, that is the extent of the enemy types in the game and the lack of enemy variety is one of my criticisms of the game.
At the same time, the game is extremely approachable to newcomers because the game is on the easier side. If you fall off a platform into a bottomless pit, you will spawn on the same platform again. Checkpoints are also very abundant if Rani dies in combat.
Even if a player finds the combat or gameplay difficult, the upgrades make it dramatically easier and you’ll naturally collect many resources for the upgrades by naturally progressing through the story.
As you progress through the game, the world will get extremely intriguing, with many signs of an ancient civilization.
It takes a couple of hours for the plot to get moving, but once it does it’s very exciting. As I mentioned earlier, I won’t be spoiling anything, but as you can imagine the plot does involve saving the world and removing all of the disgusting gunk that’s destroying the nature.
The Gunk is definitely worth a playthrough. It’s a new IP, and it’s very fun all around. Although the plot takes a while to get going, I really enjoyed the dynamic between Becks and Rani. The two of them have some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in an indie game and they really carry the game.
The gameplay is very fun as well, it’s meant to be an easy journey as you explore a foreign world, though you’ll have a puzzle every once in a while to get your blood pumping.
My only criticisms is that the enemy variety is lacking and the game is short, taking us only 5 hours to complete. The game also doesn’t have any optional collectibles or anything for replayability either unfortunately.
Despite the short length, this game is a great deal if you can get it for free on Xbox Game Pass.
- It’s a very unique game, where the focus is on cleaning up gunk with your weapon. The gameplay is easy and very addicting because you clean up to unlock new areas.
- Good character development and plenty of great character interactions. There are many of witty jokes throughout.
- The game is on the shorter side, and as soon as the plot picks up it runs out of steam and ends.
- Could’ve used more gameplay mechanics, such as more collectibles to describe the lore of this mysterious world, what and why the gunk is spreading, etc.
– Brandon Harris
Reviewed on PC