Some of the tightest and most artistic games of the last couple of years that I’ve had the pleasure to play, have been the Steamworld products released by Image & Form. Two-dimensional adventures encompassing a wide variety of genres, Image & Form’s efforts have been colourful and vibrant excuses to crack a smile whenever they reveal something new.
Their next game though? It’s adding an extra dimension to its assembly and a whole lot of dirt as well. Someone needs to clean it all up, and that someone is you. Over the past few years Image & Form had launched four very clever SteamWorld games in highly stylized 2D and picked up an array of awards along the way,” Brjann Sigurgeirsson, CEO, Thunderful Group. explained.
Still, many felt it was time to find a new direction, to do something else. Something that didn’t necessarily feature steam-driven protagonists or fit every thinkable platform, but rather would explode in full 3D, use every little ounce of computing power and generally go all the way. In short, a game where more is more. We had never made such a game, and we didn’t know if we had it in us. It would mean new processes, a new game engine, new skill sets. It required a new start… but we had reinvented ourselves before. It was time.
And from those brainstorming sessions, came The Gunk. Image & Form began with an idea for gameplay that they knew would hook players and reel them in, building The Gunk around that concept of adventure and maximum vacuum cleaning power on an alien planet infested with a strange ooze.”We typically start with an idea around some tight core gameplay, and then we iterate, iterate some more (and then we iterate on the iterations themselves for good measure), until we have created a brilliant game around it,” Sigurgeirsson said.
As for The Gunk, the first (and graphically very simple) prototypes that Game Director Ulf Hartelius presented involved running, jumping, vacuuming this slimy gunk off the ground and watching plants grow back when you had cleared a patch. It wasn’t much, but it felt tasty and was strangely soothing – and ridiculously gratifying. Here was this “something” that we knew we’d want to polish into perfection.
The Gunk is a game about two friends who run a small scavenging outfit together, and who travel from one space rock to another in search for resources they can harvest and sell. One day they land on a planet that looks dead from a distance, turns out to be unlike any other they’ve set foot on. A slimy parasite — or gunk — covers vast areas and seems to corrupt the otherwise vibrant nature and wildlife.
It’s clear that they must fight this gunk to understand what’s happened and to save the dying planet. But this also creates a rift between them; on one hand, the planet will die if we don’t rid the planet of the gunk. On the other, we’ve got problems of our own and surely this isn’t our fight to begin with. So, who cares… right? Do we have to?
That’s the premise of The Gunk. To be honest, the game has frightened me many times. In the past we’ve produced indie hits and been the underdog that (just about) everyone roots for. The games have been cartoonish and harmless. Here’s a game about really scary stuff, slimy things and real conflict. And a scope that’s big from the beginning, that doesn’t need us to feature-creep the living daylights out of it.
And that right there, is the essence of what made the Steamworld games so special. Pure, focused and amazingly satisfying to complete in a single run. The Gunk looks and sounds like more of that design philosophy, but with some serious eye candy attached for good measure as it heads towards a 2021 release date.
Last Updated: July 24, 2020