The Gunk Review
Since its inception, developer Image & Form has been known for its SteamWorld series of games, releasing critically acclaimed games such as SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist. Now part of the Thunderful Group, the studio went a different route for its next game, The Gunk, ditching the 2D graphics of the SteamWorld games for an Xbox console exclusive 3D platformer/action-adventure title. Xbox console exclusive The Gunk is the story of Rani and Becks, two space explorers who encounter a mysterious, resource-rich planet terrorized by a hostile substance known only as gunk. The relationship between Rani and Becks is a focal point of the game, with the two constantly talking to each other throughout the adventure. Actors Fiona Nova and Abigail Turner (who play Rani and Becks, respectively) are excellent in their roles, although the game’s animations do not do justice to their excellent performances. The facial animations for Rani and Becks are wooden and completely expressionless. They’re almost like puppets, so the great emotion in the actors’ voices is paired with the expressionless characters to create an unintentionally creepy vibe in the cut-scenes. It diminishes the actors’ effort and makes it harder to truly invest in the main characters’ relationship. Thankfully, The Gunk doesn’t spend a ton of time on cut-scenes, with most of Rani and Becks’ interactions happening through conversations while actually playing the game. As for how it plays, The Gunk is not unlike Kena: Bridge of Spirits released earlier this year as it clearly takes cues from PS2 era platformers. As the main character Rani, players of The Gunk have to solve puzzles, complete minor platforming challenges, and fight enemies. Rani is equipped with a special vacuum that factors into much of the gameplay, as it is used in combat, collecting resources, solving puzzles, and absorbing the titular gunk that acts as a hindrance throughout the game. In The Gunk, Rani’s main goal is to rid the planet of the gunk substance that has poisoned it. Successfully removing all the gunk from an area heals it, allowing players to progress and eliminate any lingering enemies. While this isn’t an exciting mechanic to base an entire game around, exploring the alien world of The Gunk and cleaning it up can be relaxing. Cleaning the gun and exploring the world is also useful, with players often picking up crafting materials for their trouble. Gunk gives players crafting materials to purchase upgrades that are primarily designed to make combat easier. New upgrades are unlocked by scanning objects in the environment, and it can be fun to scan everything and learn more about the strange world where Rani and Becks found the themselves. Every upgrade in The Gunk is meaningful, and they do things to scan and thoroughly explore the game world for making materials more entertaining as a result. However, there is a problem with upgrading The Gunk, and that is the game’s runtime. Gunk is very short, with players able to beat it in about four hours if they take time for all the extras, and more than three hours if they just focus on getting to the final boss. Achievement hunters can expect to spend another hour on their playtime for cleanup, but otherwise, The Gunk can be completely completed in a single sitting without much trouble. Due to the short length of The Gunk, players will find that some of the upgrades they get late in the game aren’t really used much. So players will go through the trouble of scanning things and collecting the crafting materials needed to buy the upgrades, but it won’t necessarily be worth it in the end because they’ll see the end credits before too long a time. Gunk was a good time while it lasted, but it was extremely short and because of that, it’s hard to recommend that anyone pay full price for it. Luckily, anyone interested in playing The Gunk can do so without actually dropping any money for the game itself. Gunk is on Xbox Game Pass, and it really is the perfect game for the service. With The Gunk being available as a one-day Xbox Game Pass game, the punch from its very short playtime softens considerably and becomes less important. It’s easier to forgive a game for being short when you don’t have to pay for the game. Gunk’s short playtime is its biggest flaw, but it’s not the only issue with the game. While The Gunk is a mostly polished experience with little in the way of glitches or technical mishaps, there are issues with some of the game’s platforms. Many puzzles in The Gunk revolve around throwing organic alien objects into glowing green pits to sprout large plants with leaves that players can use to reach new areas. Gunk players will soon learn to wait an extra second or two after doing this, however, as it takes a bit longer than expected for the game to register these leaves as platforms. So what happens when The Gunk players try to jump into these leaves too early is that the Rani will just fall through them as if they weren’t there. Gunk players may also find themselves frustrated by the game’s strict linearity. Gunk wants players to complete its platforming challenges in a very specific way that leaves no real room for experimentation, and this is best illustrated by its ledges. Throughout The Gunk, Rani will encounter many ledges that she should be able to touch, but she can’t. The only ones Rani will pick up are the ones with the yellow markings, so it seems like the other edges should have been made higher out of her reach since there’s no real reason why she shouldn’t be able to grab on. other ledges beyond developers don’t like him. Gunk has its flaws, but it’s still a fun way to spend some time. It’s a short but sweet adventure with gameplay reminiscent of PS2-era platforming games and so fans of the genre should definitely check it out via Xbox Game Pass. Gunk is out now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Today Technology reviewed the game on Xbox Series X.