The Gunk Review – All Gunked Up

For some reason, the act of cleaning in video games is oddly satisfying. Tidying up might be a monotonous chore in everyday life, yet games like Viscera Cleanup Detail, PowerWash Simulator, and Unpacking turn cleaning into a surprisingly engaging activity. Maybe gamifying burdensome housework with rewards and goals is enough, or perhaps it boils down to the fact that these games can make you feel productive even when you’re procrastinating. Either way, The Gunk takes this formula and applies it to an alien planet in the far reaches of space. There’s more to developer Image and Form Games’ first 3D title than simply cleaning, but for all of the other ideas it brings together, ridding the planet of its titular mess is its most enjoyable.

Upon discovering that black malevolent goo is sapping the planet of its lifeforce, protagonist Rani goes about removing the Gunk to restore the world to its former beauty. This is achieved with an arm attachment she affectionately calls “Pumpkin” which acts like a heavy-duty vacuum, allowing you to inhale the Gunk’s globular masses until there isn’t so much as a speck left. Hoovering up the planet is The Gunk’s central tenet, while simple third-person platforming and puzzle-solving encompass the rest of your adventure. There are rare moments of combat, too, but cleaning the Gunk takes precedence. Each time you clear an area of the debilitating sludge, the planet bursts back to life as the flora and fauna emerge from their goopy prison. Watching a cold, gray, lifeless area suddenly exude color and wildlife is reminiscent of similar mechanics in games such as Okami and provides The Gunk with an inherently satisfying loop. Maybe if the game were longer than a brief three hours, the rather workmanlike act of cleaning the planet would eventually grow stale. Instead, it’s the rest of the game that suffers this fate.

Freeing the planet from the Gunk’s clutches isn’t the objective when you first land on this peculiar alien world. As Rani–together with her partner Becks–you touch down on this uncharted world to scavenge a potential energy source that might be valuable enough to pay off your mountainous debt. Rani is the adventurous type, impulsive and eager to explore every nook and cranny of this unfamiliar land, even if it means being reckless at times. Becks, on the other hand, is more practical and goal-oriented. She’s overprotective of Rani and averse to her risk-taking, reluctantly adopting a maternal role as she remains with the ship and stays in contact with Rani via radio. The relationship between the pair carries what is otherwise a fairly routine story about uncovering the planet’s mysterious past. Rani and Becks’ inevitable conflict is predictable, but the combination of believable dialogue and accomplished voice acting makes for an interesting relationship, albeit one that feels overly familiar.

Continue Reading at GameSpot

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