I love games about cleaning things up. Super Mario Sunshine has been my longtime favorite, and Powerwash Simulator is something I keep coming back to so far. The Gunk requires the player to clean up some standard goop, but, naturally, that’s not what the game is all about overall. It’s a pretty short adventure game with lovely visuals and a strong world design that I enjoyed throughout its run. I wish there was more stuff and, dammit, I also wish there was more trash to clean up, but this is a 3D first game than for sure since Steamworld Developers.
The Gunk tells the story of Rani and her partner Becks. The two are scavengers who travel to the planets of their ship in search of things to be shipped back for profit. They land on such a planet and examine it, only to find that the place holds some financial promise for them. But everything is found everywhere, and Rani has to discover it on her own. Not long after, she finds a seemingly abandoned civilization and a threat still present that is sucking the planet dry.
The game has some pretty strong environmental themes. You may remember Mako from Final Fantasy VII, the lifeblood of the planet in that game is being sucked up by the evil Shinra corporation. Here, energy is called Geist, and garbage is a by-product of harvesting it. Much as Okami and other environment-focused games, the world appears cracked and dull, and taking care of the business will help you restore it to its former glory little by little. Still, The Gunk There isn’t much to be said about the evils of destroying a planet for its natural resources, but that’s also natural for most similar games.
Suck it up
The Gunk is a linear game that most will complete in about four or five hours. Rani’s main gimmick is that she has a glove that acts as a vacuum cleaner, helping to clean up trash from the environment. It’s effectively displayed on its own, and it looks like a sickly, filthy pile of trash. It moves around on its own and sucks it up is actually quite gratifying. Usually, you will enter an area that has lost its color and you have to suck up all the garbage to bring it back to life. After all was gone, there was a green pop-up and the trees returned.
There are a few enemies to fight. The most common are small creatures created by beasts. Rani just sucks them in and throws them away. She can also throw them at each other. Then there are turret-like enemies that she just needs to approach, turn on suction and then rip them apart. You need to kill enemies as well as trash to clear an area. Once you do, you’ll follow a linear path, often accompanied by some well-written and lovingly voiced dialogue. Rani is likable, but much of the game’s drama stems from Becks taking issue with her world-saving crusade. It just makes Becks himself feel so horrible, even if the game explains this to a reasonable degree.
The game’s areas are interconnected, and there are over half a dozen spots where Rani can set beacons to travel to and from her and Becks’ base camp. You can go back if you want, but there’s not much reason to do so. However, there is still room to explore as you will find all the resources that you can use to build upgrades. Much of this exploration is completely optional, but I’ve tried to do as much as possible.
How much is enough?
You unlock upgrades in The Gunk through scanning for enemies, resource nodes, and other objects of interest. For every four things you scan, you unlock a new upgrade. The gameplay is mostly pretty easy, so these upgrades are far from necessary, but I still bought most of them. These include granting new abilities, such as luring enemies or upgrading gauntlets to increase the speed at which you vacuum. One upgrade will essentially give you an extra life, not that you’ll find yourself dying.
Sometimes you’ll need to find multiple switches in interconnected areas to open the way forward. It’s almost always clear where to go and what you’re doing. There are several platforms in the game, and Rani’s gauntlet can fire an explosion that stuns enemies. It can also knock down seeds and bombs that you’ll find around the world, as well as open the occasional door. Seeds need to be placed in green pools to grow mushrooms you jump into, while bombs can be thrown to the surface to clear the way. All of these lead to a satisfying game loop that constantly pushes you forward.
The only real problem I have The Gunk is that it’s lighter on content than I expected. Like I said, four or five hours and you’re done with the game with nothing left to do. Granted, The Gunk well paced and doesn’t lose its welcome. It has just the right amount of mechanics and different elements, making for a well-balanced adventure. But I was expecting something better from the Picture & Appearance Game, because this game is as fast as the first one. Digging on Steamworld, but the developer’s later games are considerably longer. I also noticed occasional problems with collision detection. Sometimes, Rani will get stuck, convulsing in the environment for a few seconds.
The Gunk well worth playing, though. I enjoyed my time with it, even if the overall experience felt a bit small. It’s adorable, has solid characters and dialogue, and is mostly fun to play, which is always the end goal. However, I wish there were passages where I had to mindlessly clean up piles of trash. That would be a neat extra mode. Maybe if they have a large area full of trash and hazards and you have to clear everything within a certain time to get the medal. I’m gonna play something.
https://www.pcinvasion.com/the-gunk-review/ Gunk Review – Not as Dirty as You Think