The Gunk Review: Interesting gameplay, anti-climactic end

There is something satisfying about sucking up dirt! No, I’m not referring to the common household chore. The Gunk, one of the new additions to Xbox Game Pass subscribers, puts you in control to help clean up various biomes by using an attachment that can remove slimy black goo known as gunk.

You play as Rani, a young-looking scavenger, with a non-player character Beck who pilots an aircraft on the run. Running low on resources, they landed on a distant planet.

You play as Rani, a scavenger, in a distant planet. (Photo: Thunderful Games)

SPECS
PRICE: Free with Xbox Game Pass, or from S$36 (PC; Xbox One; Xbox Series X|S, version reviewed)
GENRE: Action adventure

As Rani scours for minerals for the ship, she discovers many areas are blocked by organic black substance. Rani has a right prosthetic arm that can be swapped for a device she fondly refers to as Pumpkin. It can pull objects using a built-in vacuum force.

Without any map for reference, you can only see the path ahead. The game challenges you to memorise your trail and remember your bearings, as you venture through and discover ancient relics and structures. Upon clearing the area from gunk, the area will trigger a magical transformation into a wild jungle of huge plants and illuminating fireflies.

Adventure, here we go! (Photo: Thunderful Games)

Their big leaves and flowers allow access to pathways that lets you advance further. Your equipment also allows you to scan around and spot items to contains valuable intel to the mystery behind the pollution.

As you delve deeper, additional threats appear in the form of alien creatures such as small critters that swarm you in numbers, a stationary plant that spits explosive substance from distance, or a rhino-like beast that charges at you every few seconds.

Fortunately, your device can be upgraded at the ship with an arsenal of weapons available. These upgrades become available as you go along the campaign. I ended up using a select few weapons all the way to the end.

There are plenty of weapon upgrades to choose from. (Photo: Thunderful Games)

If you perish, the game will spawn you back at the last nearby autosave point. You can also pull up the menu and trigger a save point almost anytime anywhere.

The premise and plot are interesting to keep you engaged, especially with the satisfaction of solving an area puzzle and unlocking the path ahead. When that happens, it encourages you to continue for more.

An interesting twist awaits that leads to another round of exploration and more platform puzzles. But they might feel like padding in order to extend gameplay time. However, at the same time, it gives a little more depth to character-building and the relationship between Beck and Rani.

FOR
+ Unique game premise
+ Decent controls
+ Interesting platform puzzle challenges

AGAINST
– Anti-climatic ending to story campaign
– Lacklustre graphics
– Unintuitive gameplay tracker

The plot culminates into a worthy standoff against a final boss that can be overcome within a few minutes if you time your reaction right.

However, the experience goes downhill from there. After spending so much effort transforming various places into a thriving wildlife, you are rewarded with a series of hand drawn art with minimal colours depicting the events that transpire. It feels like a rushed job, and is inconsistent with the main presentation.

As your aircraft returns to space, a long list of credits ensues for a few minutes and cannot be skipped. However, this is where I must caution you to wait patiently until you are given the option to trigger another save point, failing which you will lose your last auto save point just before the final boss. This would indeed be a turn-off after all the effort you made.

Nothing to see here. Just Beck and Rani saving the world. (Photo: Thunderful Games)

There is also another problem with the endgame. The game throws you back to the last beacon before the final boss, so you still see a state of the place that is still filled with gunk even though you have successfully eradicated them based on the plot progress.

What is left to do after completing the game story? Well, if you are an achievement hunter, you may attempt to acquire all equipment upgrades.

This leads to another anomaly though. Based on the encyclopaedia found in the menu, it displays a total of 45/51 items waiting to be discovered. However, that number magically increases to 55/55 upon finishing the game. But on my achievement tracker, it shows 96% completion.  

The game does not show what I am missing, so the only way is to traverse through seven beacon checkpoints and aimlessly fire my scanner beam around in order to spot the missing item. Pro tip: You can get five of the items from the area around your ship.

VERDICT
The Gunk is a short and fun outing that can be a good learning point for new and younger gamers, but it can become frustrating to casual achievement hunters.

RATING
6/10