I started The Gunk with eager anticipation and shot over the swirling clouds of the cosmos. The opening film is beautiful and promising. Unfortunately, it’s also the culmination of the short game’s trajectory. In a game full of alien worlds splattered with paint and populated with alien mysteries, The Gunk falls surprisingly flat. Fortunately, this spaceship manages to stay afloat with personable characters, solid gameplay, and a usable storyline.
The heroes of the Gunk, Rani and Becks, are two courageous and impoverished space transporters. You land on an unknown planet, hoping to find valuable resources to pay off your debts and prepare for life. As Rani you fearlessly explore the unknown world, scan life forms for data, jump from craggy cliffs to oversized leaves and finally clear away the obstructive, plant-destroying gunk. Becks stays with the ship, but communication allows for easy back and forth between the ship’s co-captains, which reminds me of that Cowboy bebop
Everything in this adventure is reminiscent of something else, and for the most part, it has been done better elsewhere. After first encountering the sticky substance of the planet and sucking it up with my robotic arm, I returned to Luigi’s mansion. Other functions, from opening shortcuts by dropping creepers to shooting glowing buttons that open locked doors, to harvesting the planet’s flora for making materials, feel incredibly old-fashioned and uninspired. On the one hand, The Gunk feels familiar and slightly comfortable. On the other hand, nothing really stands out that almost makes you forget this experience.
Although The Gunk conjures up other great shows and games, it never reaches the peak of its inspirations. Despite the variety of colors in these strange landscapes, the colors never pop and the terrain always looks a little unsatur ated. Rather than triggering an awe-inspiring moment where the gray, gunk-infested landscape turns into a living oasis of exotic plants, the jaded aesthetic means that cleaning the gunk from one location has only a modest visual impact, which is the thrill of cleaning decreased area.
In dialog-heavy sections, the characters’ lips flutter like lifeless puppets, which leads to cutscenes that are easy to listen to, but awkward to watch. Running, jumping, and shooting feels smooth, but I’ve occasionally got stuck with the surrounding geometry. Floating helplessly in the air by a glitch is annoying, as is noticing that plants and rocks are often the same texture, but they didn’t stop me from having a good time running around the world and doing my mission fulfill.
This mission is simple at first. Gather resources from around the world to do much-needed repairs on my robotic, vacuum-ready prosthetic arms and look for anything that sells for big bucks. However, the adventurous Rani can’t stop trying to rid the world of the gooey mass that threatens her flora and fauna. Uncovering the mystery of Gunk’s origins brings Rani into conflict with the pragmatic Becks, who don’t want to waste their precious and increasingly scarce supplies trying to solve someone else’s problem. As a result, the conflict at the heart of this story was strong enough to propel 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 characters keeps the story going, the soaking up of goo is oddly 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 living kaleidoscope with brilliant colors and unearthly shapes. Unfortunately, this mark is not quite reached. All in all, The Gunk is a competent frolic through space, but not an outstanding one.