Coming off of a pretty significant binge of games where you clean things up, The Gunk seemed to be a good choice for something to ease me back into something, well, a little more game-like. I wasn’t completely sure about it going in – I’m notoriously bad at platformers – but I was pleased to discover that it leaned more towards story and exploration than either puzzling or platforming.
You play as Rani, half of a pair of down-on-their-luck space explorers who land on an unknown planet in search of marketable items. Your partner, Becks, is a little more grounded, focused on filling up the cargo hold, while the player character is more interested in exploration. The problem they both face is the gunk, a toxic slime that is sucking the vitality out of the planet. Conveniently, Rani’s power glove can suck up the gunk, clearing paths and reinvigorating the landscape.
It’s a fairly short game; I took just over five hours to complete it. The first half or so of the game is fairly simple, and if the story doesn’t manage to captivate you, there’s unlikely to be meaty enough game play to keep you interested. You wander around, sucking up gunk and resources, scanning the vegetation, and bit by bit, learn about this strange polluted planet.
When the landscape isn’t being smothered by gunk, it’s gorgeous. The platforming is basic, the puzzles aren’t terribly difficult to figure out, and the combat – at least in the early game – is barely combat at all. However, the game takes a sharp turn in the later chapters, and it goes from being almost too simple to a level of challenge that the first part of the game in no way prepared the player for.
As a result, the last couple of hours were a bit of a slog for me. Dying isn’t too punishing, thankfully, and despite it being a fairly recent game, I had no trouble finding a (text) walkthrough when I got stuck. In the final chapter, I honestly wasn’t having fun anymore, but with the finish line so close, I pushed my way through to the credits.
Overall, I felt like The Gunk was a decent little game, but could have definitely benefited from another balance pass. The easy parts are too easy, and the challenging parts feel too rough considering what came before.