Following the success of SteamWorld Dig 2 in 2017, the Image & Form team hoped to broaden their horizons with their next project. A game prototype was finally tested, with players sucking up black gunk and allowing plants to grow, which the team found “ridiculously pleasurable,” and thus The Gunk became Image & Form’s next game.
Rani and her partner Becks are the protagonists of The Gunk. The two are scavengers who travel to planets in their ship in search of items to drag back for a tidy profit. They land on one of these planets and have a look around, only to discover that it bears some financial promise for them. However, the titular gunk can be found everywhere, and Rani must investigate on her own. Soon after, she discovers a seemingly abandoned civilization as well as a still-present danger that is sucking the planet dry.
The Gunk Review
The game contains a number of powerful environmental themes. Mako, the lifeblood of Final Fantasy VII’s world that was being drained by the wicked Shinra Corporation, is surely familiar to you. The energy is known as Geist in this world, and the gunk is a consequence of extracting it. The planet appears cracked and dingy, similar to Okami and other environmentally-focused games, and taking care of business will gradually restore it to its former splendour. Still, The Gunk doesn’t speak anything about the dangers of destroying a planet for its natural riches, but that’s standard for most such games
The Gunk is a linear game that most people will finish in four or five hours. Rani’s major gimmick is a glove that serves as a vacuum, cleaning filth from the environment. The muck itself is well-rendered, and it resembles writhing infected jello. It moves on its own, and sucking it up is actually rather enjoyable. Typically, you’ll enter an area that has had its colour drained from it, and you’ll have to suck up all the filth to bring it back to life. When it’s all gone, there’s a green pop and the plants reappear.
There are a few foes to contend with. The most prevalent are the gunk-created creatures. Rani simply sucks them in and tosses them. She can also toss them at each other. Then there are foes that look like turrets that she may approach, turn on the suction, and then rip off. To clean an area, you must eliminate both the adversaries and the gunk. Once you’ve done so, you’ll be taken on a linear journey, typically accompanied by some well-written and endearingly voiced conversation. Rani is endearing, but Becks’ opposition to her world-saving crusade drives much of the game’s drama. Even if the game explains this to a respectable degree, it just makes Becks seem kind of horrible.
The locations of the game are interconnected, and Rani can place a beacon to travel to and from her and Becks’ base camp. You can go back in time if you want, but there’s not much incentive to. There is still room for exploration since you’ll find resources all over the place that you may utilize to develop enhancements. Much of this exploration is entirely optional, but I made an effort to do as much of it as possible.
In The Gunk, you get access to upgrades by scanning adversaries, resource nodes, and other things of interest. You get a new upgrade after scanning four things. The game is relatively easy, so these improvements aren’t really necessary, but I still got the majority of them. They range from offering additional skills, such as a lure for enemies, to glove upgrades that boost the speed with which you suck gunk. One improvement practically grants you an extra life, not that you’ll die.
To unlock the road forward, you may need to find many switches in the interconnected sections at times. It’s virtually always obvious where you’re going and what you’re doing. The game has some platforming, and Rani’s glove may fire a blast that stuns adversaries. It can also demolish seeds and bombs scattered across the world, as well as open the odd door. Seeds must be planted in green pools to produce mushrooms that you can jump on, and bombs can be thrown against surfaces to clear the path. All of this adds up to a satisfying gaming cycle that keeps you moving forward.
The only true issue I have with The Gunk is that it contains less content than I expected. As I already stated, four or five hours and you’ve completed the game with nothing else to do. The Gunk, on the other hand, is well-paced and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It has the proper mix of mechanics and varied aspects, resulting in a well-balanced journey. But I was anticipating more from Image & Form Games, as this game is approximately as fast as the first Steamworld Dig, but the developer’s later games were noticeably longer. I also found an issue with collision detection on occasion. Rani would occasionally become stuck, twitching in the environment for a few seconds.
The Gunk, on the other hand, is worth playing. I had a good time with it, even though the entire experience was a little underwhelming. It’s gorgeous, with strong characters and language, and it’s largely just enjoyable to play, which is usually the goal. I do wish there were sections where I just had to clean up a ton of gunk randomly. That would have been a fun bonus mode to have. Maybe if they had a large space full of muck and hazards and you had to clear it up in a specific amount of time to receive a medal. That’s something I’d play a lot of.
The GunkThe Gunk
- Beautiful environment
- Puzzles are enjoyable
- Looks and sounds great
- Combat is underbaked
- Limited accessibility options
- Lacking difficulty