Some adventure games send you off to save the universe and others challenge you to best a great evil. A new platforming adventurer called The Gunk offers players some smaller if similar goals. But more importantly, it has you cleaning and sucking up a whole lot of bubbling gunk. And that’s oddly satisfying.
The Gunk focuses on two young space scavenger friends, Rani and Becks, who gamble what little fuel they have to land their salvage ship on what looks to be a somewhat dead planet. There is, however, an energy reading that the pair of pals are picking up that may well mean a solid payday if they can find what’s giving off those vibes.
Playing as the optimistic Rani, you do indeed find little pockets of glowing energy once you hit the surface. But what little of the stuff Rani discovers is also being swallowed up and strangled out by blobs of seemingly noxious, bubbling gunk. Armed with a multipurpose bionic hand device—that Rani affectionately calls Pumpkin—she quickly sucks up this gunk and finds that when she does, the local fauna begins to spring back to life.
Oh, and there are new paths to follow once the gunk is cleaned away, too. Rani explores the planet and its hidden secrets—uncovering relics of a (lost?) civilization; sucking up usable materials and gunk and bringing life back to the world; and slowly revealing the truth behind what happened to this victimized planet.
Gameplay wise, The Gunk features lots of platform climbing and jumping, some puzzle solving, and upgrades through item collection. And there’s even a dallop of action/adventure trigger-pulling once Rani augments her robotic vacuum hand with a pulse-cannon add-on.
Though the game is rather one dimensional once you get into play, The Gunk is fairly accessible for younger tween and teen players (with some caveats, listed below). It also packs some gameplay and messages that lead gamers to think about our own world’s valuable environment, raising questions about how best to deal with its resources and the potential waste that comes from using those resources.
As the story unfolds, it also focuses on the importance of maintaining a healthy give-and-take in friendships and helping others in need.
There is a bit of creature zapping in the mix, but nothing bloody. In fact, in spite of an ongoing need to shoot pulse blasts and toss explosive things, Rani is more often called upon to use her vacuum to best obstacles and foes than her blaster.
There’s more messy language in Rani and Becks’ conversations than you might expect. They use s-words and multiple uses of “d–n,” “h—,” “crap,” “bloody” and even “a–hole.” There’s an unfinished f-word and a use of “jeez” in the mix as well.
A reference to beer is made a couple times. Rani and Becks also discuss how best to lie to authorities about their adventure.
The Gunk isn’t necessarily the most compelling or even challenging game you’ll find. It’s a middle-of-the-road kind of title. But there is a lot of item-collecting and platforming adventure fun to be had if those are things you enjoy.
As I mentioned, even the act of gobbling up gunk and restoring color and beauty to a video-game world can have its own cathartic pleasure. However, for all of that clean-up niceness, it would have been nice if the The Gunk’s makers had cleaned up the language.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.