I started The Gunk with anticipation, shooting over the swirling clouds of the cosmos. The opening film is beautiful and promising. Unfortunately, it’s also the pinnacle of the short game’s trajectory. In a game full of alien worlds full of color and populated with alien mysteries, The Gunk falls surprisingly flat. Fortunately, this spacecraft manages to stay afloat with lovable characters, solid gameplay and a useful story.
The Gunk’s heroes, Rani and Becks, are a bunch of brave and impoverished starship captains. They land on an unknown planet hoping to discover valuable resources to pay off their debts and get ready for life. As Rani, you fearlessly explore the unknown world, scan life forms for data, jump from sheer cliffs to oversized leaves, and finally clear out obstructive, plant-destroying Gunk. Becks stays with the ship, but the comms allow for an easy back and forth between the ship’s co-captains, which reminds me of Cowboy Bebop and glowworm, shows that rigid intrepid space travelers are in constant need of money. While not a bad company to keep, it points to a problematic pattern: nothing in The Gunk feels unique.
Everything in this adventure is reminiscent of something else, and for the most part, it’s done better elsewhere. After first encountering the planet’s titular, sticky substance and sucking it up with my robotic arm, I flashed back to Luigi’s Mansion. Other functions, from opening shortcuts by dropping climbable vines to firing glowing buttons that open closed doors to harvesting the planet’s plant life for crafting materials, feel incredibly trodden and uninspired. On the one hand, The Gunk feels familiar and somewhat comfortable. On the other hand, nothing really stands out, making this experience almost forgettable.
Despite conjuring up other great shows and games, The Gunk never reaches the heights of its inspirations. Despite the array of colors in these otherworldly landscapes, the hues never pop and the terrain always seems a little unsaturated. Rather than trigger an awe-inspiring moment where the gray Gunk-infested landscape turns into a vibrant oasis of exotic plant life, the bland aesthetic means cleaning the Gunk from one location has only a moderate visual impact, adding to the thrill of the cleaning of each location reduces. Surface.
During sections with a lot of dialogue, the lips of the character models flap like inanimate dolls, resulting in cutscenes that are fine to listen to, but uncomfortable to watch. Running, jumping and shooting feels smooth, but every now and then I got stuck on the surrounding geometry. Hovering helplessly in the air thanks to a glitch is annoying, as is noticing that plants and rocks often have the same texture, but they didn’t stop me from running around the world and completing my mission.
That mission is initially simple. Gather resources from the world to make much-needed repairs to my robotic, vacuum-ready prosthetic arm and look for something that can sell for a lot of money. However, the adventurous Rani cannot resist trying to rid the world of the gooey mass that threatens flora and fauna. By unraveling the mystery of the Gunk’s origins, Rani finds himself at odds with the pragmatic Becks, who don’t want to waste their precious and dwindling supplies on solving someone else’s problem. As a result, the conflict at the heart of this story was strong enough to push me from one linear section to the next.
The Gunk deserves quite a bit of criticism and just a little unreserved praise. The connection between the characters keeps the story going, the goo sucking is strangely satisfying, and the mechanics work as intended. However, I wish the world felt more distinctive and more realized. The environment has the potential to be a vibrant kaleidoscope with brilliant hues and unearthly shapes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way. All in all, The Gunk is a competent romp through space, but not a great one.