I was a big fan of the Steamworld series, so when I heard they were creating a 3D adventure game that looked like Kena: Bridge Of Spirits and played like Luigi’s Mansion, I was all over it.
But is The Gunk a steaming pile or miracle cure? Here’s my review of The Gunk on Xbox.
The story behind The Gunk focuses on its two female protagonists, with you playing as a scavenger named Rani who, alongside her partner, Becks discover a near-dead planet ripe for salvage. Upon landing, they discover that it is infested with a slimy goo that’s choking plant life and mutating creatures into little beasts. The plot is simple: clean up the planet and save the world. In this respect, it does bear a slight similarity to the Steamworld games. However, it’s the relationship between Rani and Becks that keeps you interested, as they start the game in a state of desperation and argue more and more throughout the narrative.
The main mechanic of the game involves sucking up the nefarious black goo that is strangling the life from the planet’s ecosystem. Once an area is clear of gunk, it bursts back into life sprouting new flora and fauna right before your eyes, which is very cool and never gets old. The regenerated scenery is both lush and stunning and really encapsulates an alien planet. In some ways, it reminds me of Ōkami which isn’t a bad thing. However, young Rani isn’t just on clean-up duty. Throughout the game are various puzzles, some of which do require you to stop and think for a minute which is a refreshing change from similar games that hold your hand throughout.
The Gunk is cleaned up using Rani’s Bionic arm and power glove. Throughout the game, she is able to use scavenged resources you collect to craft and upgrade her glove. Being able to make your glove shoot laser works well in the puzzles and boss battles but for the more common enemy type, you are better off simply sucking them up and throwing them at other enemies. The crafting side of the game is a nice touch, but I would have liked to see more functions enabling you to access additional secret areas.
The combat is hard to get used to at first as it involves sucking up the enemy, then moving and retargeting, before firing at an on-coming baddie. Younger gamers may find this a little frustrating at first. To be honest, this game would be fantastic for younger gamers around 8+ if it wasn’t for the random swear word used in the dialogue. They have only been used a handful of times and could have easily been dropped in favour of a wider appeal.
Visually, the game is absolutely stunning on the Xbox Series X, with a more realistic style than the previous SteamWorld series and the characters are nicely animated and have their own charm. Lip synced dialogue would have been nice, but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.
The Gunk is built by a fantastic team and is inspired by some great titles from Luigi’s Mansion to the more recent Kena: Bridge of Spirits. The graphics are fabulous and the dialogue adds depth to the protagonists. At £20/$25, it sits in the mid-range of games but if you have Game Pass you can play it for free right now. The game is fun and is not too challenging but would have suited a younger player if the bad language was removed. Overall, both I and my kids enjoyed the game and worked through the story over the course of a couple of weeks. The game doesn’t bring anything new to the table but sometimes a comfort game is just what you need.