With the year coming to a close in just a few short weeks, Xbox players will have some big exclusives to look forward to. No, we’re not talking about Halo Infinite’s campaign but The Gunk by Image and Form Games. Which may sound like a joke but this is from the studio that developed the amazing SteamWorld series (with SteamWorld Dig 2 being one of the best titles of all time).
By contrast, The Gunk is a fully 3D action adventure that focuses on exploration and combat as it does on survival and puzzle-solving. It’s out on December 16th for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC along with launching day one on Xbox Game. Let’s take a look at eight things you should know before picking it up.
The Gunk focuses on Rani (voiced by Fiona Nova) and Beck (played by Abigail Turner), two scavengers who travel the galaxy, mining resources and attempting to make ends meet. They arrive upon a mysterious uncharted planet that’s seemingly teeming with precious resources. Things seem to be looking up but they also find it covered in a mysterious black substance. This “Gunk” is actually a parasite and is seemingly corrupting the environment along with its wildlife. Rani thus sets out to learn more about the planet, cleansing the Gunk and unraveling its greater mysteries. Throughout the story, the relationship between Rani and Beck is also unveiled. As they remain in radio contact, we learn more about their struggles, conflicts and much more.
The planet in question is interesting for a number of reasons. It’s full of jungles, caves, canyons and barren deserts to explore, though it’s all been corrupted and warped thanks to the Gunk (which also seems to be affecting the weather by generating dangerous storms). By removing the Gunk, players can restore these areas to their previous natural beauty. With the help of the revived plant life, new areas can be unlocked. Players will also find evidence of an ancient civilization, including statues of alien figures – they must discern what happened to them and how the Gunk played a role in their apparent downfall. The August 2021 gameplay trailer also showcased a massive facility with giant, neon-lit pipes connected to it and alien architecture within. Perhaps it’s another species that set up shop on the planet for their own mysterious purposes?
In order to traverse the Gunk-filled environments, Rani must rely on her Power Glove. This device is capable of sucking up the Gunk, thus cleansing the environment. Some form of environmental manipulation also seems to be available but Rani can also suck up enemies and shoot them out to damage others (along with firing energy blasts of some sort). There are puzzles to solve, though we’ve only seen lever-pulling up till now. Given how the SteamWorld Dig series plays, expect some side areas with devious challenges to overcome. Though Rani’s Power Glove starts out relatively simple, it will be possible to enhance it with the right resources.
Crafting and Upgrades
Another aspect that carries over from SteamWorld Dig is using the gathered resources for crafting and upgrading one’s equipment. How exactly it works remains to be seen but there are Achievements for crafting five upgrades (which could be per equipment piece) along with crafting all upgrades. Perhaps the energy blasts that Rani can fire from her Power Glove are an upgrade. One Achievement also seems to hint at being able to blow up enemies – this may either involve an upgrade or utilizing the environment. We’ll have to wait for more details.
The environment isn’t the only thing affected by the Gunk. Various wildlife have also fallen prey to it, resulting in corrupted creatures that will attack Rani. Some of them are fairly small and can be sucked up with the Power Glove to launch at others. But there are bigger creatures to fight which can charge at her. Interestingly, it seems that one will be able to defeat these larger foes by making them charge into each other or off of cliffs (at least according to Achievements). This is likely only a small sampling of the threats that players will face though.
Along with cleansing the environment, Rani can also scan it for different details. This would provide more details on the various flora and fauna along with the ancient statues and architecture adorning the landscape. All of this will be categorized into a Logbook which players can view. While the main story is focused on Rani and Beck, scanning and reading the Logbook could provide lore and additional clues as to the planet’s past.
Save or Profit
One aspect that’s been brought up a lot is the ability to either save the planet or simply strip its resources and peace out. The official description also speaks of the crew being caught in a “spiral of festering mistrust,” which seems to indicate that Rani and Beck have opposing views on what should be done (or that something is manipulating them into distrusting each other). As such, having financial troubles is only one aspect to their troubled relationship – by cleansing the Gunk and altering the planet, perhaps they’re messing with forces beyond their control. How this will ultimately play out – like possible choices that could lead to different endings – remains to be seen but it is intriguing.
Up to 4K and 60 FPS on Xbox Series X
For Image and Form’s first ever fully 3D game, The Gunk offers a unique art-style that looks vibrant while maintaining a grimy feel. Along with being optimized for Xbox Series X/S, it supports up to 4K and 60 FPS+ on Xbox Series X and PC. Smart Delivery is also supported, which means cross-gen save progression and only having to buy the game once on consoles. Xbox One players can experience it in 30 FPS but there’s no word yet on the resolution. Though PC requirements have yet to be revealed, the Microsoft Store indicates that it will require a minimum of 2 GB VRAM with 6 GB VRAM being recommended.