There’s a poignant message within The Gunk. But much like the planet you spend 4-5 hours exploring as Rani, it becomes lost along the way. Having landed on a planet ravaged by pollution and a race on the brink of extinction, a powerful message on climate change could pack a punch. Sadly, The Gunk fails to land its killer blow.
Rani is joined by her partner Becks, as they travel through space in their ship ‘Bunny’ on the hunt for hidden riches. Down on their luck and with spiraling debts, they need to find something worth selling and fast. Just when they think they’ve found the jackpot, Rani may have bitten off more than she can chew…
Initially appearing like a bountiful planet of resources, Rani discovers it has a dark secret much to Becks’ disgust. Early signs of promise are quickly overshadowed by the discovery of a black substance called ‘Gunk’. A substance that rapidly reproduces and sucks life and colour from everything it touches.
Despite Becks pleading to do a quick smash and grab of resources, Rani takes it upon herself to find the source of the Gunk and quash it. This is where The Gunk really loses its way and almost outstays its welcome, despite being relatively short.
Having lost her right arm on a past adventure, Rani now has a Power Glove (nicknamed Pumpkin) with different functions. Sadly, they are very limited and repetitive even on this short intergalactic jaunt. Pumpkin can suck up Gunk, fire energy balls at enemies and scan the planet for new information & data. The latter of which allows you to buy upgrades for Pumpkin, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever need the majority of them.
There’s the Stun Pulse Array which emits a blast to stun small foes, the Energy Lure that detracts them away from your position and the Energy Siphon which gives you a temporary speed boost after sucking up Gunk. But when enemies don’t appear in any great numbers, presenting little danger, their relevance is near non-existent.
Each new location is pretty predictable too, requiring you to suck up Gunk, open locked doors with an energy blast, and/or sprout a seed to open up a new pathway. The colours and beauty to which you are treated on clearing an area are a sight to behold, but that’s where the reward stops. Your path is pretty linear too with little to no exploration on offer which could enrich the world and story by offering more history to this once wonderful planet.
The dialogue between Becks and Rani carries the game along for the most part as their relationship is believable thanks to some nice scripting and acting. Becks’ negativity and whingey attitude does begin to grate towards the latter parts of the game, however.
The Gunk’s 3-4 hour completion time is its saving grace, which is quite sad really. Its reliance on the same rinse-and-repeat suck to clear mechanic makes it rather unforgettable and disengaging. If paying, it’s hard to recommend The Gunk however whilst it’s available on Game Pass its repetitive nature is an easier prospect to swallow.
Should you play it? Only if you have Game Pass
Why… The Gunk fails to bring anything new to the table and misses a real opportunity to make a heartfelt environmental message
But… If you have Game Pass, it’s ‘free’ to play and only lasts 3-4 hours so won’t take up too much to complete
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Developer/Publisher: Image & Form Games and Thunderful Publishing
Playable on: Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One and PC
Released: December 16th 2021