The Gunk review: clearing an alien planet of slime

Recensione di The Gunk: che bello ripulire un pianeta alieno dalla melma! thumbnail

Exploration, puzzles and a glove that sucks up everything we encounter: we tried The Gunk thoroughly and here is our review.

The Gunk Review: Cleaning up a planet with a glove

Released on December 16, 2021, and immediately launched in the immense cauldron of the Xbox Game Pass, The Gunk is the first 3D game signed by that little gem of a team that is Image & Form (yes, those of SteamWorld). I personally tried it on Xbox One and the gaming experience pleasantly surprised me, although the title presents some critical issues which cannot be ignored. But stop the chatter and immerse ourselves in the review of this Microsoft exclusive armed with our magic glove.

The Gunk catapults us to the surface of an alien planet armed with Pumpkin, a orange handyman glove, which allows you to suck in everything: resources, enemies and… The Gunk. The planet is in fact covered with a strange and very disgusting substance which is called, precisely, Gunk. This absorbs all the energy and life from the planet, making the vegetation wither and making it a barren and gloomy place. It will be up to us, indeed to our character, Rani, to use Pumpkin to remove this slimey alien substance, make the planet flourish and discover its wonders, among flora, fauna and the remains of a mysterious civilization.

The game begins with the landing on the planet by Bunny, the spaceship whose crew is made up of Rani, Beck – her best friend – and Curt, a droid of few words. The two humans, gripped by economic problems, they roam the universe in search of materials to resell. What initially looks like a gloomy, desolate planet without too many resources, turns out instead to be a wonderful land gripped by a mysterious evil, which manifests itself in the form of Gunk, a slime that feeds on the energy of nature.

Thanks to Rani’s glove we can suck The Gunk (and everything else too), making the surrounding fauna flourish. The gameplay is as simple as it is satisfying: how nice it is to remove the slime! Once the area has been cleaned up, we will be able to explore it and collect the many resources present. These will be useful to unlock mods for our loyal gauntlet, the only real weapon we will have in the game.

Explore, clean up, repeat: we are the scavengers of the universe!

Exploring and cleaning up areas we will find out more about the history of the island, the mysterious and advanced civilization that inhabits it (goes) and the nature of The Gunk, which turns out to be not just a substance, but a sentient being. In fact, it becomes more and more aggressive, and this makes the gameplay decidedly lively, for what is a game whose dynamics risk being repetitive. In fact, the gameplay takes place according to a fixed pattern: clean up the area, explore it, uncover the conduit to a new area, repeat. The fights with the few monsters that The Gunk will send against us are extremely simple, except for the boss finale, in which everything becomes slightly more dynamic. As the story progresses the game difficulty will tend to increase, and this is represented by the introduction of small puzzles to solve to unlock new areas.

Cross and delight of the game is storytelling. It is certainly fascinating to discover the secrets of the island and learn more the relationship between Rami and Beck, the first dedicated to adventure, the other more pragmatic and prudent. However, the narrative is at times inconsistent, and the events often seem just an excuse to introduce new scenarios to clean up. To be honest, however, it must be said that in the final stages of the game, it all becomes more exciting, also thanks to a pleasant plot twist that introduces the character of Il Giardiniere.

Do you die? Well what questions! Falling from great heights, slipping into water (infested with Gunk) and being excessively injured by enemies, Rani will obviously die. In this case it will respown from the last checkpoint, without excessive consequences. A dynamic that simplifies the action and that perhaps tells us a lot about the intention of the developers of not wanting to complicate too much a game that focuses entirely on simplicity.

Summing up: that planet is beautiful but I wouldn’t live there

The settings are one of the strong points of the game: well-finished and at times fairytale, with a excellent contrast between the dark and arid areas dominated by Gunk and the bright and colorful ones cleaned by Rani. Also the music is extremely enjoyable and fits the gameplay perfectly.

At times the actions can be repetitive, and you never feel like you have to work hard to unlock the modifications of the glove. On the contrary, upgrades are obtained almost instantly. The passage from one area to another is interspersed with loading screens, which are very reminiscent of Dyno Crisis 2. In this sense, whether desired or not, The Gunk offers numerous quotes. The glove, for example, is very reminiscent of the gods’ vacuum cleaner Ghostbusters, while some game mechanics seem to wink at Control (which is never a bad thing).

I experienced the most obvious and serious criticality in the form of a bug, during some The Gunk removal operations. To completely clean up an area, and make the green bloom, it will in fact be necessary remove every last inch of that horrid slime substance (yuck). Several times, although I had removed everything (I swear) I had a hard time getting the animation that turns the gray area into a colorful lawn. Even worse in the dark areas (very numerous) where it will be practically impossible to identify that last centimeter of that disgusting residual Gunk (it is understood that I like that substance, right?). To fix the problem, most of the time, I had to restart the game, reload the game and pray to fix the bug. Some minor negatives concern some errors in the graphics sector, which, albeit rarely, shows totally nonsense colored light beams, which compromise immersion and playability.

Summing up this review, The Gunk is approved: a great title, especially for being an indie, which lets itself be played despite some problems. A nice and simple game that it ends in about 5 hours, is that gives its best especially in the final. But know that I, that slime, dream of it at night.