The Gunk Review: A Fun Little Throwback That Slips Up a Bit

by David Sanchez January 18, 2022 @ 9:00 am

The Gunk on Xbox One

Reviewed on Xbox One

There’s been somewhat of a rise of old school-patterned 3D action-adventure games the past couple years. Titles like Tamarin and Biomutant have a very early 2000s feel to them — yet they’re mechanically sound without falling victim to dated tropes very often. The Gunk is another such throwback. And while it’s far from perfect and struggles to remain interesting 100 percent of the time, it’s still a solid ride that should be well worth it for quite a few folks.

The Gunk comes from the studio that brought us the SteamWorld series. Unlike those games, this is a fully 3D action-adventure game. Like a few of those games, though, The Gunk relies on simple core mechanics throughout the majority of the adventure. Interestingly, that reliance on those core mechanics creates both the game’s strong and weak points.

Super Mario Sunshine Meets Luigi’s Mansion?

The Gunk Gameplay

You play as Rani, the crew member of a very small team — two people and a robot — of space scavengers who find themselves on a mysterious planet. This planet is covered in the titular gunk, and our protagonist takes it upon herself to clean the place up and find out the source of the pollutant.

Throughout the entirety of The Gunk, Rani is constant communication with her partner, Becks. There’s a lot of banter between the two, and at times the conversations can become a bit too distracting. The dialogue isn’t especially interesting, but there’s practically nonstop talking over the course of the adventure, and truthfully, it can be annoying.

Thankfully, the overbearing dialogue isn’t a huge detriment. This is thanks in large part to the game’s entertaining gameplay, which literally has you sucking up the tar-like substance that covers the entire planet. Rani has a robot arm that acts as a vacuum, and you’ll go around cleaning up gunk-infested areas. It’s kind of like Super Mario Sunshine if Mario had a vacuum a la Luigi’s Mansion.

The Gunk

The bulk of the game has you cleaning up the gunk, but there’s also some platforming and very light puzzle-solving. This is what makes up the majority of the gameplay, and it’s oddly enjoyable to go from one environment to the next in search of stuff to vacuum.

The Gunk isn’t a particularly challenging game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, one of the game’s biggest drawbacks is actually its use of mundane enemies, which are more of a nuisance than anything. In addition, the last act does become a bit stale as you’ll explore the same area for an extended amount of time, but the adventure comes to an end just as it begins to wear out its welcome.

A Compact Adventure in a Strange Planet

The Gunk Enemies and Combat

Going hand-in-hand with the somewhat quirky nature of the gameplay in The Gunk is a nice visual presentation. While exploring the strange planet and seeing its many sights, I was reminded of my favorite 3D platformers and action-adventure games from the early 2000s. Yes, this game looks a lot more detailed than pretty much all of those titles, but there’s a wonderful and somewhat elegant simplicity to the compact landscapes in The Gunk.

Speaking of which, the word “compact” is fitting for both the level design and the size of the adventure. You can finish The Gunk in just about four hours. This is the perfect length for the type of gameplay that’s offered here, though the asking price of $25 might be a bit much for some.

In any case, if you’re able to look past its flaws — the overly chatty characters and mundane final chapter — as well as the simplicity of its gameplay, The Gunk offers up a quick and fun adventure that’s reminiscent of the original Xbox days.

Score: 6 out of 10

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