This free-to-play Xbox Game Pass title can basically be boiled down to you controlling a hoover and cleaning up a dirty planet.
And while that may sound unappealing in its description, the resulting game based around that chore mechanic is rewarding and fun.
The Gunk is a new title by the creators of the popular Steam World series on game consoles.
They’ve punted for a new story and 3D realm with this space oddity, and do a very effective job in giving us something fresh for 2022.
The Xbox exclusive is available on the console’s excellent Game Pass service and you don’t even have to download it now.
Thanks to the new Xbox Cloud Gaming instant play option you simply click and Xbox allows you to stream the title instantly over your Series X, playing it on their servers.
There’s something seriously gratifying in being able to see a game library and simply playing instantly, without the need for hours of download.
And you can switch smoothly to PC or touch-screen tablet as long as you remain logged into your Xbox ecosystem. Top stuff.
Once in we’re faced with an over-the-shoulder puzzle game.
The Gunk is a sci-fi exploration title set on a mysterious alien planet.
As Rani, you’ll have to deal with a strange substance that you can vacuum up with Pumpkin, your trusty multi-purpose prosthetic arm.
Every time you clear a dull grey area of the Gunk parasite it springs to life, and the planet’s suppressed lush ecosystem emerges before your eyes, colourising the area and really making the most of those Xbox graphics.
That in turn will often open up an new zone to move on to, pushing the story forward as you and your ship-bound companion Becks try to find the source of a mystery signal and an ancient civilisation.
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The puzzle element slowly ramps up as you try to traverse ever more difficult platform areas, using a mixture of skills and tricks, like throwing giant flower pods into growth portals to grow-up a nice plant you can get jump on to get to unassailable ledges.
It’s all fair intuitive and the difficulty ramps up gently enough that you won’t get too stuck for too long on any particular bit.
The controls feel natural, like any other generic platformer, run and jump, etc, and the ‘hoover’ works just like Luigi’s does in Luigi’s Mansion on the Nintendo Switch.
It’s visuals are impressive, with the switch between Gunk-filled hotspots and lush green aliens environments never getting old.
There’s plenty of lush caves and off-the-beaten track areas to discover, and the scan ability is a nice addition to allow you to slowly unfurl the secrets of the mysterious planet one plant at a time.
The message of the game fits well with modern worries too, there’s something addictively enjoyable about cleaning up a world and bringing it back to nature. Something we can all probably do a bit more of.
The Gunk is all about healing your environment in order for it to aid you and push you further on your quest.
While the overall offering here feels fresh, all of the various elements of The Gunk have been done before.
From the puzzle solving of various Tomb Raider titles to the Uncharted vibe of the lush backdrops and the Luigi-style hoovering up, none of it individually has been done better than the many times before.
But as a package, this is a nicely put-together game and a great little addition to the Game Pass’s ever-growing library.
It’s lovely to see Xbox really starting to come into its own with exclusive content, a long over-due necessity as Sony’s Playstation continues to dominate many a living room.
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