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Sunday Gold

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Team17
Developer: Bkom Studios
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2022

About Andreas Salmen

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PC Review - 'Sunday Gold'

by Andreas Salmen on Oct. 10, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Sunday Gold combines stylish turn-based combat, intricate puzzles, and a grungy narrative set against the backdrop of a dystopian futuristic London.

When Disco Elysium was released three years ago, it made a noticeable impact on the industry. Since it introduced a blend of interesting dialogue and combat-free RPG systems, we have seen several indies follow a similar design path, such as Citizen Sleeper, Gamedec, and the upcoming Pentiment. Sunday Gold looked like such a title that is somewhat adjacent to the indie masterpiece. After playing Sunday Gold, it would be best described as a turn-based, point-and-click adventure game. The mix of gameplay styles is a breath of fresh air, but it's not without its inherent flaws.

Sunday Gold stars three protagonists: Frank, Gavin and Sally. All three are under our control as a party throughout the adventure as they try to pull off a big heist at Hogan Industries. The setting evokes the seedy underbelly of London in a dystopian future, with our three "heroes" standing up against corrupt billionaire Kenny Hogan. Expect the story to be told through thick English accents and rough words, paired with an over-the-top comic style. It sounds a bit cliché, but the setting and visual representation create a cohesive whole. After all, we are some wacky, tough-as-nails gangsters looking for the next easy job to make some cash.

Each member of the team has distinct personality traits and skills. Frank is great with firearms, so he's the leader of the group and great for picking locks. Sally, on the other hand, is tough and strong. She can take a lot of damage and beat people to a pulp, and she's also the healer. Newcomer Gavin is a former disgruntled Hogan Industries employee. As the bat-swinging hacker of the group, Gavin plans to hack into Hogan's systems and hold some delicate files for a nice ransom. Of course, things go sideways, and when they do, they hit the fan hard.

As we enter Hogan Industries for our initial attempt at stealing the aforementioned files, Sunday Gold plays very much like a traditional adventure title. We click around environments for clues and items to progress the story, such as disabling the security cameras system to gain access to the building. In the quieter sections of the adventure, you'll either solve intermediate puzzles to progress or rummage around to find medicine and other consumables to aid your party in battle.

The twist is that you are never fully free to do anything you want — at least not without potentially dire consequences. Sunday Gold creates a sense of urgency primarily through its turn-based nature. At this stage, you may justifiably ask how a turn-based adventure would work. Essentially, each character has a budget of Action Points to spend for each turn, and the pool of points can be used for both combat and exploration. As soon as your characters run out of AP, they will be unable to perform certain actions until you end the turn. Since the AP pool is shared between combat and exploration, being starved for AP can be a huge disadvantage when getting into a confrontation.

The gameplay involves you trying to solve the current puzzle, but almost any critical action costs AP: lockpicking, hacking, and even searching compartments. Once you run out and your turn ends, you may run into a random encounter with enemies, such as security guards. We're performing a heist after all, and the more time we take and the louder we are, the higher the chance that someone discovers and attacks us. This also has a direct consequence on our protagonists' well-being. If anything doesn't go as planned or there's any reason to doubt their endeavor, your party loses composure. If that loss of composure is not counteracted, a character might completely snap and act irrationally. I do like this concept in theory, as it fits the narrative and setting well, but I didn't like it as much in action, which mainly has to do with its combat difficulty.

Combat is basic turn-based RPG stuff. We take turns in attacking, either via basic attacks or special skills that the characters learn as they level up. The issue is that the difficulty ramps up quickly in the combat encounters. I'm not opposed to difficulty, but due to the restrictive AP system, it can be hard to get your party patched up between encounters. Searching through compartments for randomized consumables costs a ton of AP and often triggers new combat encounters that worsen your current situation. There were times when it felt that I had almost no recourse to being beaten up by NPC opponents, since the game would not provide me with an opportunity to patch up the team. When facing a gnarly boss, this became painful and sluggish. There needs to be better balancing or a difficulty selection to make this more fun and less punishing. Sunday Gold has its moments, but over the course of the 15-hour experience, there were several parts that I could've definitely done without.

I love a lot of the puzzles since they are nowhere near the dreaded moon-logic puzzle from classic adventures, but they are not always immediately apparent, either. There is some detective work to be done via hacking computers, gaining access cards, or following a trail of emails to find the way forward. I was engrossed in this universe, and apart from the encounters and AP restrictions, I generally enjoyed my time.

The game just kept dropping the ball in several areas. An example of this is the focus on minigames. When a character uses a skill, like hacking or lockpicking, it doesn't automatically succeed. Based on the character's skill level, we have to complete a minigame of a certain difficulty to succeed. These range from doable to downright annoying, especially the strength minigame, where you have to keep a moving dial in a certain area, and the hacking skill frequently got my nerves. They're not bad, but they're needlessly tedious. I'd almost wish these would be relegated to random dice throws, but luckily, there is an accessibility feature that makes these skill interludes much easier to get through.

Overall, the comic art style and presentation look good and match the story and aesthetic. The dialogue is a bit clichéd at times, but Sunday Gold channels its best Guy Richie vibes, and it works well.

While the game looked and ran great most of the time, there is one small disclaimer. Sunday Gold has been delayed, but we have only encountered one issue. At one point, our save files got completely corrupted out of nowhere, forcing us to restart from the beginning. It has not happened since, so we wouldn't be too concerned about this.

All in all, Sunday Gold has an interesting premise and gameplay mechanics, but it doesn't come together as well as it could. Some parts of the game were completely engrossing and entertaining, but there are several segments that I did not enjoy. The story and puzzles are fun, but the combat is rather shallow and difficult, which isn't eased by the restrictive AP system and minigames. It's an enjoyable indie with a great idea, but the execution doesn't always match. If you're in the market for something new and point-and-click-adjacent, Sunday Gold is a great pick-up for all of its strengths. If you're hoping for a great RPG like Disco Elysium, you'll want to look elsewhere.

Score: 7.0/10

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