Developer – Image & Form Games
Publisher – Thunderful Publishing
Platform(s) – Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), PC
Release Date – December 16, 2021
Disclaimer: Review Copy was Kindly Provided for this Review
The Gunk marks the first game I’ve played from the publisher, Thunderful Games. I’m aware of a couple of their games such as Fe and the Steamworld series but have yet to play any of them. I first saw The Gunk a few months back and knew that when the time came I wanted to give it a try and experience my first game from Thunderful.
I was fairly dry on information on this game going in, which I like when it pertains to indie games. This happened with another game I played and reviewed recently called Death’s Door. I didn’t know much of anything about Death’s Door going in other than its unanimous praise across the board and it made for a more raw and fresh experience for me. Enough beginning exposition, let’s get to the actual review.
Your protagonist is Rani, who’s made their way on a sludge-filled planet with her friend Becks. I enjoyed the back and forth banter between both Rani and Becks immensely, they both made for fun dialogue because of how well they play off each other. There are a few other side characters but I didn’t find any of them particularly noteworthy or memorable as I did with the main protagonists.
The overall narrative itself isn’t one of my favorite aspects of The Gunk. It’s not bad by any means, I just don’t didn’t get too invested in what Rani was exploring. You land on this mysterious planet and have to figure out the deeper meaning occurring. It was fun to explore gameplay-wise, but the lore and meaning behind these areas that Rani was roaming through didn’t capture my interest like I hoped it would.
Speaking of gameplay, I’d say it’s the main reason I’m enjoying The Gunk as much as I have. You’re equipped with a suction device which Rani calls “pumpkin”. You can upgrade “pumpkin” and unlock new abilities by collecting minerals such as metal and fiber. One concern I had going into this game was that sucking up gunk was going to be the majority of the game with not much variety, I’m glad to say I was wrong. There’s a ton of puzzles that are fairly simple to figure out but it keeps things fresh. For example, you can find explosive bombs that you can hurl around with “pumpkin” to cause environmental damage to progress further.
Combat isn’t in-depth and is fairly simple to figure out. I encountered a few hostiles in my playthrough such as these small alien bugs and a Mario Piranha Plant-type enemy with a few bigger boss types that I won’t spoil here. I would’ve liked a bit more variety in the enemy department as the ones I just named above are pretty much the only ones I encountered the entire time.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a hard game in the slightest. I think this facet of the game will appeal to a ton of people considering it’ll be a short and leisurely game to end the year with for most. I genuinely believe I didn’t die once in my entire time playing and reviewing this game.
The Gunk isn’t too glitchy but there were a few times towards the end of the game where I frequently got a bug that wouldn’t let me continue to the next area. Two different times I couldn’t continue through a level because the game hadn’t registered that I had killed all the enemies. So I ended up having to restart both times and defeat those enemies over again. I’m not the only one having this issue and I hope it gets resolved soon.
Interesting art direction has been a staple this year in many games I’ve played and The Gunk joins that category as well. I’m sure this is something everyone has noted just from looking at some of the images in this review. The art direction shines through in a lot of underground levels that emerge all throughout the game. It has an artsy yet ugly tone to it that I can’t quite describe.
The average person could easily finish The Gunk in about half a day. It’s not a long game at all, I finished it in about 5 and a half hours. If you go into this game expecting deep story beats and an in-depth combat system, you’ll be disappointed. If you go into this game expecting a short and charming indie experience, I think you’ll be delighted.
It’s not without its faults such as the ho-hum narrative and a few combat glitches that forced me to exit and restart the game to continue. Still, I feel the positive greatly outweighs the negative. Rani and Becks are terrifically written and acted by Fiona Nova and Abigail Turner. There’s enthralling art direction, great music, and a simple yet effective combat system.
The Gunk has shortcomings that hold it back from being a pillar in the best indie games of the year along with Kena or Death’s Door. I’d recommend it to anyone mostly because of its short length. I think there’s potential to tighten up on core aspects if they do choose to make a sequel. With its faults, I’m still satisfied I sat down to play it and I think the majority will too.
Rating - 7.5/10