Game Over – The Wild At Heart (#JustOnePercent 41/100)

Developer: Moonlight Kids
Release Date: May 20, 2021
MSRP: $24.99

I’ve been vaguely interested in The Wild At Heart since I spotted it on GamePass a few months ago, but puzzle adventure games are so hit and miss for me, I kept putting it off. As of a few days ago, it’s no longer available through GamePass. Fortunately for me, it’s still playable through Humble Trove, and because of where I had it scheduled and when it was set to go off of GamePass, that’s the version I ended up playing.

It took me just under 9 hours to complete the storyline on the easier of the two difficulties, and I knew before I was through my first hour of game play that I was going to want to see this one through to the end credits. While I feel like the Wanderer difficulty better fit my play style, I also feel like in some ways, I missed out on some of the experience, but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here.

You begin the game as Wake, a boy who had made plans with his best friend Kirby to run away from home together, and manages to get so lost, he ends up in what feels like another world. The Deep Woods is the home of the Greenshields, and their companions, the Spritelings, who protect the world at large from the dark forces of the Nether. When you arrive, most of the Greenshields are missing and things are in disarray after the loss of The Green Witch. You’re asked to lend a hand, adventuring with the Spritelings, who seem to be fond of you, and you start exploring, using both your new friends and your trusty backpack vacuum to overcome obstacles in your path.

There’s very little in the Deep Woods that you can interact with directly – most tasks need to be performed by sending out your Spritelings. Initially, you only have Twiglings, who help by destroying toxic mushrooms, reinvigorating plant life, and carrying large objects back to where they belong. As you progress through the story, you will meet four other variety of Spritelings, all of whom are suited for different sorts of tasks, so you’ll want to make sure you keep a good assortment with you at all times.

Once you get a bit into the story, your friend Kirby manages to join you, and then you will control both characters. By default, Wake, Kirby and the Spritelings all move together, but you can (and will need to) occasionally separate them. Kirby is smaller, and can squeeze through logs to get to previously inaccessible areas, and she soon acquires a special lantern, which, like Wake’s Gustbuster, can draw things in close to her. This ability is critical not only for quickly picking up piles of resources, but for herding up wayward Spritelings.

Once you unlock the hub area, you’ll be able to repair some structures, which unlock some upgrade paths & additional game play elements. While playing on the Wanderer difficulty, most of this felt irrelevant throughout the majority of the game, and I admit that I mostly skipped over all of it. Sure, I picked things up and threw them in my stash, but I didn’t feel like I needed to grind resources to upgrade my health – unless I stayed out after dark, I very rarely took damage, and if I stayed out after dark, it was unlikely that another pip (or even two) of health was going to make the difference.

Making sure to get to camp once the sun sets is critical – once it’s dark, the denizens of the Never come out, and your only real recourse is to find a light source. Monsters you encounter during the day time can be dealt with by your Spriteling army, but you’re not meant to fight the forces of the Never, only to avoid them for the majority of the game. Playing the game on the Wanderer difficulty also meant that combat really didn’t feel like a big focus – throw the right Spritelings on the monsters, and they were vanquished fairly quickly. Because of this, the very end of the game was a bit of a culture-shock, and making sure I had an adequate supply of health restoration items was critical for the first time in the entire game.

Still, I enjoyed the story and the game play of The Wild At Heart, and the pacing felt really good – every time I really understood how it all worked, a new element was added, almost right until the very end of the game. I will admit to consulting a walkthrough a time or two, but usually it was due to my poor navigational skills rather than particularly obtuse puzzles – I struggled with finding things, not with figuring out what I needed to do once I arrived.

Overall, it’s a beautiful game with lovely music, and interesting story, and puzzles that will make you think, but that for the most part, aren’t likely to frustrate. Post-credits, you can go back into your save file and do completionist things if that suits you – what feels like a point of no return will roll the credits once you’re past it, but doesn’t stop you from finishing up anything you missed.

SteamDB estimates that The Wild At Heart has sold somewhere between 4,700 and 13,000 copies on Steam. While those aren’t stellar sales numbers, subscription service availability and low replay value have probably lowered sales a bit, and as a Humble Games published title, it’s a good candidate for eventual inclusion in Humble Choice. However, reviews overall have been favorable, and it is ranked 342 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over – Bugsnax

I have a rule when it comes to Steam tags – always check them, never trust them. Sure, some tags are put there by developers, but if enough Steam users apply a tag to a given game, it ends up showing up, sometimes higher in the list than the developers tags, and there are a *lot* of folks out there who think they’re very very funny.

When Elden Ring gets highlighted under the “Relaxing” tag, you probably have some amateur comedians at work.

Why am I talking about this now? Because the top user-defined tag for Bugsnax is “Psychological Horror”, and I am here to tell you that this is both correct and appropriate. You can trust this tag. It may look like an adorable adventure game with a dash of “gotta catch them all” but it’s also so very very deeply disturbing.

You play as a nearly-unemployed journalist, who has received a file, complete with black & white home movie style video, from explorer Lizbert Megafig. She wants you to come to the site of her latest discovery, Snaktooth Island, where all of the wildlife looks like snack foods and is, in fact, delicious. She feels like these creatures are a pretty significant discovery, and she wants you to tell the world about it.

As you approach the island in your half-ship, half-hot-air-balloon, a giant moth swoops down on you, knocking you out of your vehicle (which you will discover a little ways in crashed, but not too terribly damaged). After a super-brief tutorial on moving around, you discover the first of your fellow Grumpuses, lying on the ground nearly dead from hunger, and all of a sudden, you’re not just a journalist anymore. You’re going to be the best Bugsnax catcher this island has ever seen. You feed your new friend a Strobby or two (a very easy to catch Bugsnack that looks just like a strawberry), and immediately, he begins to change.

Now that I have played Bugsnax, I will never think of the phrase “You are what you eat!” quite the same way again. It is, in fact, possible to feed other Grumpuses until they become nothing but Bugsnax. Thankfully, the player character appears to be allergic to these tasty treats, as well as immune to the effects of hunger.

If you can get past the willful self-mutilation that every goofy looking critter on this island seems willing to endure for the delectability of the local fauna, you’re about to start on a whirlwind adventure of convincing all the (former) inhabitants of Snaxburg back to their home base on the island. See, Lizbert and her partner Eggabel have both disappeared, and the rest of the crew has gone their separate ways. Weird things are happening on Snaktooth Island, and as the resident nameless journalist, it’s up to you to put everything back to rights and find the missing Grumpuses.

I’m not really comfortable dropping spoilers for anything past the game’s intro; sure it’s been available for quite awhile on both Playstation and Epic Games, but just recently was released on both Steam and XBox (including on GamePass, which is where I played it). You will be given all the tools you need to catch every Bugsnax that exists, and although all the mechanics are fairly well explained, there are still plenty of opportunities to feel very clever indeed. There are also plenty of hints and walkthroughs all across the internet, should you find that you need them.

Zones open up slowly, as you manage to complete different tasks. In the end, there are 10 zones, including the “home base” of Snaxburg and the recently added free DLC area of Broken Tooth. You will also have four types of quests – main quests, which you will need to complete to progress the story, interviews, which almost always end with you obtaining something you’ll need by the game’s conclusion, side quests, which are mostly optional, but not really optional if you want to catch all the Bugsnax or open up the DLC area, and quests that come in the mail, which seem to just give cosmetics but which are, frustratingly, un-trackable once you finish reading the letter they come in.

There’s a lot going on, but if you stick only to what you need to do, you can complete the entire game in 5-6 hours. Which is what I did, because I have trouble not progressing the main quest when the game is successful at making you feel a sense of urgency. There is a point where the game warns you that you are about the pass the point of no return, and I did so without hesitation. There was a mystery to solve, after all. Lives were hanging in the balance.

Virtual muppet lives, but I was into it, ok?

Then I did something I never ever do. I started over. I wanted to play the whole thing again, this time, making sure I did all the quests & caught all the bugs & did everything there was to do … within reason. Even considering how much less time I was spending figuring things out on a second play through, this one has thus far been considerably longer, and that’s not including the pretty lengthy sequence that comes past the point of no return, which I have yet to pass. I’ve just opened up the DLC area, and as you can see, I’ve done a lot more on the second playthrough than the first.

Despite having almost nothing in common with them gameplay-wise, the feel of Bugsnax reminded me a lot of the Psychonauts games (which I loved both of despite being cool towards 3D platformers in general). Both games are bright and colorful and full of absolute what-the-fuckery. Whatever ride you think you’ve gotten on, you’re about to discover that the place this train is barreling towards you never really wanted to go, but you’re just dying to see what’s at the end of the tracks.

There’s something magical about that.

Game Over – Unforgettable You (#JustOnePercent 35/100)

Developer: NanningsGames
Release Date: May 102, 2021
MSRP: Free

I don’t generally go in for platformers, but I feel like story-driven platformers aren’t terrible common. Unforgettable You is just that – in fact, it leans so heavily into the focus of story and art, I’m not entirely sure it needed to be a platformer at all. Certainly, the game play is the weakest part of this short, free title; it’s a minimalist journey through a love affair from first meeting until final goodbye.

Did I mention the graphics are stunning? Your character is forever a silhouette, against 21 distinct background designs. On each level, there are three hearts to collect (most of which you will get easily just moving from one end to the other), and a light orb that finishes out the level. Thankfully for me, the platforming is not difficult, and there is no combat. There are, however, places where missed jumps or touching dangerous creatures can reset your progress, and two levels where for at least part of the time, speed is of the essence, and missing a single jump can mean being returned to the start of the level.

I know I already said that Unforgettable You‘s strength is not in its game play, but I was impressed at the number of different (and yet not too challenging) mechanics peppered throughout. I think even in a game that I was able to complete in under an hour, without the frequent changes and additions in how the levels were structured, it would have become tedious. The story is fairly minimalistic, with each level only having a handful of lines of (full voice acted!) dialogue.

If you’re a platforming aficionado looking for a challenge, give this one a pass. If you want to look at pretty graphics, and enjoy lovely music while taking in a short and sweet love story, this game is 100% worth the download.

SteamDB estimates that Unforgettable You has been downloaded between 500 and a 1,300 times from Steam. It is ranked 1961 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over – Redeliver (#JustOnePercent 34/100)

Developer: Nyfarious
Release Date: May 10, 2021
MSRP: $0.99

What I thought I was getting with Redeliver was a visual novel about delivering lost letters with some light puzzle elements. Well, I was right about the visual novel part. Sure, you need to deliver some letters along the way, but this is a fairy tale remix, that crams a whole lot of story into a very short game. You play as Red, who is taking an important package to her grandmother, and in doing so, stumbles into a plot to overthrow the government and teams up with some revolutionaries to save the day.

No, I’m not kidding.

This may be the first time I’ve ever said this, but I think Redeliver could have benefited from being twice as long with half the game play, at least with the elements that exist within the game as it stands. The game description mentions puzzles; however, what you have is a few not-so-hidden object scenes (some of which are really just down to trial and error) and a few reverse-fetch quests, where you need to click on a map based on vague directions from other people you’ve encountered. As far as I’m concerned, neither of these things added anything to the game. Twice, I was actually annoyed at how tedious and drawn-out the “puzzles” were. Instead of feeling clever, the best I could hope for was feeling lucky.

Redeliver definitely has more to offer in storytelling than gameplay. Despite feeling very rushed, the story has a couple emotional moments and some difficult choices, which are only made slightly less difficult by knowing that there is only one ending, which is, by default, the best ending. It’s easier to just go with your gut if you know the outcome isn’t going to change based on what you decide. Although multiple endings would have added some replayability, at the sub-dollar price point, I am not sure the game needed them. Unfortunately, the bigger flaw in the plot is that everything happens so fast, and you’re just kind of dragged along for the ride. It was like playing the Cliff’s Notes version of a visual novel.

Although I didn’t find the whole thing to be wildly successful, I did play it through to completion in just under an hour. This is yet another game that – as far as I can tell – is the first major effort from a solo developer, and it does hold together. Considering it falls a bit outside my preferred gaming genres, I consider this to be a successful game, because I did enjoy it.

SteamDB estimates that Redeliver has sold somewhere between 100 and a 300 copies on Steam. While not a huge success in the sales department, all the reviews so far have been positive. It is ranked 3873 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over (For Now) – Core Keeper

I have such a love-hate relationship with the whole concept of Early Access Games. I’m not the type of player who tends to play things anywhere close to when I buy them, so most of my less-than-stellar Early Access experiences have been of the type where I buy into something early, put off actually playing it for awhile, then when I actually sit down to play it find that it’s either been left unfinished, or in one notable case, taken completely offline and unplayable.

Mostly, I buy into Early Access games now if I’m willing to take a gamble and support a concept that looks really cool, or if the game is mostly complete and I don’t want to wait. I guess for me Core Keeper fell more into the former category than the latter. What was different this time was that my co-op partner & I picked this one up on our first game night after release and just started playing it, and stuck with it for multiple weeks until we felt like we’ve seen everything it (currently) has to offer.

In just over 20 hours, we’ve managed to kill all the storyline bosses (of which there are only four), one of the two hidden optional bosses, and put together the Rune Song Sword, a legendary weapon that we spent most of an entire play session on. There are at least two more story-content bosses planned before the eventual end of the game, and we have both already agreed that we’ll revisit it down the line.

The best way I can describe Core Keeper is take one part Stardew Valley, one part Terraria, sprinkle in hunger mechanics, and blend until unrecognizable. Expect to spend a lot of time digging for resources and repairing your tools, while also making sure you’re growing or fishing up adequate food. In our first play session, my partner explored while I set up a home base. We decided to settle near the first water source we found, and just kind of dug around it to set up a small farm and crafting area.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that our base was a stone’s throw from the first boss mob, so most of my early food production endeavors were punctuated by the noise of a giant slime hopping around just on the other side of a wall. Thankfully, most of the earliest monsters you encounter aren’t particularly interested in you until you’re just about right on top of them, so we took our time meandering through the crafting tree until we felt like we could reasonably take on the challenge that was banging around literally just outside our door.

While that first boss was pretty straightforward, just about everything we encountered afterwards had a quirk that required more thought than brawn. We were determined to do as much as we could without looking up walkthroughs or other spoilers, but I couldn’t resist poking around after we’d beaten them to see if there was a simpler way we hadn’t thought of. There was. There always is.

Lots of good stuff to look forward to on the roadmap.

With the story still unfinished, this isn’t a true Game Over, and I’ll be back to Core Keeper as soon as there’s something new to see. I have no regrets about picking this one up at full price.

Game Over – Eternia: Pet Whisperer (#JustOnePercent 32/100)

Developer: Shirakumo Games
Release Date: May 5, 2021
MSRP: $2.99

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of visual novels, but every now and again, one is a bit off the beaten path and catches my eye. As someone who’s also a pretty big fan of animals, Eternia: Pet Whisperer seemed like it would be right up my alley, and when it was included as part of the Bundle for Ukraine, I decided I’d give a playthrough for #JustOnePercent.

There’s not much in the way of world building – you start right away by visiting adoptable pets in a shelter. You can always choose to check out your apartment, but there’s nothing to do there, so normally, you’ll be choosing a potential pet to visit with. The first day of the game doesn’t give you any options – you’ll be meeting Connie the Cockatoo. You can save the game from this screen anytime you like, and if there are no available pets you want to talk to, you can always skip the day.

There are six different animals (well, seven but the rats only come as a matched set!) you can choose to spend time with. Completely on script, the first storyline I finished was Brinda, the Border Collie. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a dog. There are no branching storylines in Eternia: Pet Whisperer, you’re participating in the story, but only in the most scripted of ways. Complete a pet’s storyline, and they agree to be adopted by you. Once you’ve adopted a pet, there’s a game over option, but it’s also when the whole thing gets pretty darned weird.

You see, the pets at this particular rescue were all part of a “failed” experiment. Which is why you can communicate with them – it’s a talent they have, not one you have. That’s not all. Apparently, these animals have also mastered the fine art of time travel, apparently solely so you can subvert the shelter’s “one adoption per household” rule, and bring all the animals back to your tiny city apartment.

Now, I definitely read faster than average, and adopting all 6 pets and getting to the end credits took me less than 40 minutes. It was a charming little game, but lack of meaningful choices seriously limits replay value. I would definitely recommend giving it a play through if you grabbed that bundle, however, as the art, music, and dialogue is all well done & interesting throughout, even if it is a little off the wall. All the animals have unique personalities, and if you do decide to adopt them all, there’s one fun choice you get to make about the post-game (which sadly, we don’t to see or play).

I ran into a couple of glitches with the game, but I am not sure if that’s because I added it to Steam so I could use the overlay for screenshot purposes. I played in full screen, and alt-tabbing out would cause the text and overlay art to disappear. You could keep clicking through, but there was nothing to see. I also had some trouble with attempting to change the font (although you are given the option of a few different ones), but there’s no text overlap or issues with the default choice. Thankfully, the game includes a skip button, which I made use of when I needed to replay the first 10 minutes or so, up to my first adoption scene.

Overall, I really liked the vibe of Eternia: Pet Whisperer, and would definitely like to see what this team comes up with when they’re not working on a Game Jam schedule.

SteamDB estimates that Eternia: Pet Whisperer has sold somewhere between 200 and a 700 copies on Steam. It looks to be a freshman effort from this team as far as Steam is concerned, although they have a handful of other titles on, and a new game coming in November of 2022. Every review on Steam has recommended this title, and it is ranked 2427 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over – Machinika Museum (#JustOnePercent 15/100)

Developer: Littlefield Studio
Release Date: March 23, 2021
MSRP: $7.99

Machinika Museum is a short little puzzler in the vein of The Room series. All of the action – and by action, I mean puzzles – takes place in a single area, without any input from non-player characters. These games sink or swim almost completely on the quality of the puzzles – too easy, and people are either bored or feeling cheated; too difficult or obtuse, and people will feel like they’ve wasted both their time and money. I’m pleased to say that, at least as far as I’m concerned, this game walks that line perfectly. None of the puzzles felt unfair, even the very last one, that stumped me hard enough to go looking for a walkthrough.

The controls took a little getting used to, as the game is also available as mobile download so it was designed to be touch friendly. There’s a lot of click-hold-and-drag happening here. The Steam page indicates that the game has full controller support, but I didn’t have any trouble playing through with just the mouse.

Instead of being an escape room puzzler, in Machinika Museum, you’re a researcher at a museum who’s been left with a pile of alien artifacts that need to be figured out. Each package comes with a letter, but the letters are all moderately to heavily redacted, so you’re on your own not only to figure out how things work, but what they actually do.

You get a couple of neat tools to help you sort everything out. Use your 3D printer when you have something you really need more than one of, and your really neat electronic one-size-fits-all screwdriver for the assortment of really strange screws you’re going to come across. You even have an endoscope, which lets you look inside things provided you can find a small hole to get it in there.

Otherwise, there isn’t much of anything that’ll throw you off if you’ve played similar puzzles in the past. The game is divided into seven chapters, one for each item you’ll need to figure out. There were a couple of repeated puzzle styles, but the game relies heavily on the “look at everything” trope – if you need to enter a code or figure out a series of symbols, it’s a sure bet you’ve seen them elsewhere already.

I did hit a bug in Chapter Six that locked me from progressing, so I lost about 10 minutes redoing the beginning of that chapter, and the entire game took just over two hours to finish. There are no achievements, and no real reason to replay it. I probably would have passed this over at full price, but for the dollar I paid from Fanatical in one of their recent bundles, I have no complaints.

SteamDB estimates that Machinika Museum has sold somewhere between 6,900 and a 18,900 copies on Steam. It is also available through iTunes, the GooglePlay store, and Utomik. A niche title certainly, but reviews have been Very Positive, and it is ranked 857 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over – Landlord of the Woods (#JustOnePercent 12/100)

Developer: Madison Karrh
Release Date: March 17, 2021
MSRP: $0.99

I am pretty much always down for a game that is An Experience – something short and oh-so out there. Landlord of the Woods is certainly an experience, although the story it tells is not one I can entirely relate to.

I’m not sure I’m buying into the whole idea of “you’re 25 and already you think, is this it?” but y’know, considering the state of everything, it might be more of a universal feeling than I realize. For me, twenty-five was a long long time ago, and while I’m not sure I’ve ever been the type of person that could be described as “optimistic” or “hopeful”, I’m fairly sure at that point I felt like the best was still to come. Anyway, the protagonist of this short tale is bored, and feeling a little disillusioned with the day to day. I guess I get that. That is, until you stumble across a job opportunity while surfing the internet.

And thusly, you apply to be the new landlord of the woods. When you get the letter at the end of a day of puzzling through the mundane tasks of your life, you leave all that behind to start over.

Your new job, collecting rent from an odd assortment of characters, doesn’t feel all that different from your old job, at least as far as game play is concerned. In fact, some early puzzles almost exactly duplicate puzzles from the beginning of the game. As the entire game took me just under an hour to complete, I have to believe the choice was a deliberate commentary – no matter the task, you’re still just going through the motions.

And make no mistake, it is bleak. The soundtrack is pleasant enough but a bit bland, the color palette is subdued, and the tasks are tedious. You need to collect four items from each of six tenants, and there isn’t a puzzle in the lot that you can’t solve by just blindly clicking on everything to see what does something. Once you solve each resident’s problem, you can move on to the next, but you should make sure you have all the rent items entered into your ledger before moving on (although it appears the game will allow you to collect partial rents or even no rent at all, there’s no compelling reason to skip out on the collection aspect as far as I could see).

I didn’t exactly dislike Landlord of the Woods, but it felt a little more heavy-handed and darker than I was expecting. The developer’s other title on Steam, a free to play puzzle game called Whimsy, is also described as macabre, so maybe that’s just her style. It’s not a terrifically complex game, but the manipulation of objects just feels good, and I didn’t encounter any significant glitches. As long as your comfortable with the subject matter, it’s a dark but charming way to spend an hour of your time. Just make sure you play all the way through to the very last puzzle for a somewhat unexpected ending.

SteamDB estimates that Landlord of the Woods has sold somewhere between 2,500 and a 6,900 copies on Steam. It’s rated Very Positive, has garnered only three negative reviews overall, and is ranked 486 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over – Silent Earth (#JustOnePercent 9/100)

Developer: Fring Frang Games

Release Date: March 3, 2021

MSRP: Free

I’m going to be really upfront about this: Silent Earth sounds a whole lot deeper than it plays. It’s a short – very short – choose your own adventure story about a nameless colonist on a space station that has recently lost all contact with Earth. Even if the store page didn’t clearly tell you that it had five possible endings, it won’t take terribly long to figure out what those paths are and, if you wanted to, see them to completion.

The entire game is text on a flat background. The only options are fullscreen or windowed, and a volume slider / mute button for the background music. For me, the music was an acceptable volume, and pleasant enough if a bit repetitive.

I’ve never really gotten into text adventures. I came into gaming just a bit too late for their heyday, and I normally want more gameplay if I’m going to be sitting at my PC. For me, the story was a bit predictable and simplistic, almost more of a prologue than a complete game. Still, what was there was well written, and for the bargain basement price of free, it does what it set out do well enough, I think.

Most of the text is white, but there are blue words throughout, which can be clicked on to get a bit of extra information (in the case of the screenshot above, I clicked on “view” and got a couple short lines about exactly what the view was). Anything in red will progress the story, and it’s where you as the player chooses which path they want to take through this tale.

Being a fast reader, playing to completion of a single storyline took me a bit less than 15 minutes. All in all, you could probably squeeze an hour’s entertainment out of the game if you chose to replay to pursue all paths. It’s a bit heavy-handed in its message, but I found no flaws with the actual construction of the game – all the parts work just fine in concert with each other. It just wasn’t anything that appealed to me enough to keep playing after reaching the credits the first time.

SteamDB estimates that Silent has been added to somewhere between 200 and 700 game libraries on Steam. It has just a handful of reviews, a positive rating, and a rank of 5227 out of 10,967 releases in 2021.

Game Over – The Gunk

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.