The Gunk Review: Pumpkin Flavoured

Let's strive for a clean planet, someone's though, in The Gunk review - out now on PC and Xbox.

What I don’t like about The Gunk is the lack of HUD or map to indicate where to go. So you mean exploration actually means me looking around an alien planet rich in lush, vibrant vegetation and finding the right path? That’s quite assuming, isn’t it?

Starting with something I dislike in a review seems a little maverick and may indicate I didn’t get on with it. On the contrary, it’s an entertaining game, and in getting rid of the oh-so-trivial pet peeve that really isn’t a problem, allows for a positive spin on Image and Form Games’ title.

The Gunk is an easy game, but whether you read that as a negative or not is on you, as it’s refreshing to enjoy a game without struggling. That means it’s a game you’re likely to finish, thus seeing it through in its entirety. Unlike so many unfinished titles in your library, no doubt.

The Gunk Review - On the pull
On the pull. Source: PR

Rani and Becks are a duo of salvagers on the trail of some untapped energy they hope to sell off and tackle their mounting debt. Becks is the leader of the operation, on-call to fire up their spaceship, Bunny, when required. Rani is the grafter of the two and the character you play. 

Within a short space of time, they uncover the gunk of the title – an unsightly goop that covers all living things, suffocating life until Rani sucks it up with her portable vacuum, Pumpkin. It sounds silly, but it’s not. Think of all those times cleaning up in simulator games: it’s like that; a little bit of a chore, but strangely satisfying.

Rani takes it upon herself to clear up the planet, revealing unknown plant life, aliens, and… intelligent life? Unknown planets always forecast danger, but here it isn’t on the scale of, say, landing in Sera in the hope of attending an embroidery class without any aggro.

The Gunk is a third-person experience with platforming elements that’s a bit on rails but in a good way. Yes, you can go where you want, but as the platforming is so straightforward, this element feels more of a tour than serving up frustrating precision jumping. Instead, the focus is on exploring the area with a scanner and salvaging components to upgrade gear.

The Gunk Review - Baboons
Future baboons (their bums light up). Source: PR

It reminded me of Journey To The Savage Planet in terms of the locations, but this is a third-person experience and doesn’t have the same sort of humour. Becks and Rani are great, and their relationship adds value to the narrative and the risks involved with their adventure.

While the voice acting was very good, the combination of the stunning visuals and excellent score were the standout for me. The music is a little understated during play, but pause for a moment when you’re writing up a review, and you’ll notice just how good it is.

During installation, there was mention about updating the drivers as a few players had issues. Whether I’m ignorant or played after the fixes (or both), I didn’t encounter any problems. The only slowdown was the loading screens with Rani and some invisible walls around the terrain that I’m happy to overlook, though it would have been nice to have been able to jump on a few rocks that were within jumping distance.

The Gunk Review - Yo Team
Yo, team. Source: PR

In a rare moment on Twitter last week, I read a few people saying The Gunk was their GOTY. While they’re right as it’s their opinion, it doesn’t make the list that I’m currently working on. That’s not because of any issues, but it’s just preference. As it stands, The Gunk is a beautiful game on so many levels – the obvious visuals, excellent score, but also the storytelling and revelations through exploration.

Yes, it’s on the easy side, but again, I don’t see that as a negative as it enabled me to enjoy the aspects just touched on. It’s a relatively short game, which is also subjective as I took quite a few detours to look at textures, wildlife and to clean up more of the gunk than was required. I’ve concluded that I like vacuuming. In short, a laidback adventure well worth the experience that won’t have you breaking a sweat or a controller.