Platforms: PC[Review code provided by Team 17]
The city of London, 2070. Times are hard. Frank Barber, an infamous rogue, is short on luck and shorter on cash. The mob are beating on his door and, if he doesn’t pay up soon, they’ll be beating on his skull next. Kenny Hogan – Frank’s least favourite billionaire – sneers from the television screen, celebrating another win for Sunday Gold. More ‘monster’ than ‘mutt’, he’s the champion of the vicious dog races that thrill the nation.
But Sally Wheeler – Frank’s old partner in crime – presents a glimmer of hope in an unlikely package. Enter Gavin Dorsey, a keyboard warrior with a bone to pick with Kenny Hogan… and a backdoor into his office, where he promises they’ll find enough dirt to bury Hogan for good. If these three crooks can pull it off, this could be the score of a lifetime. But nothing’s ever that easy, is it?
Sunday Gold blends point-and-click adventure exploration with JRPG turn-based combat and tops it off with a delicious comic-book aesthetic. Every bit of the presentation oozes style, giving the game a cohesive, slick-and-gritty atmosphere. As your party gets beat-up, their portraits grow bloody and bruised; as they lose their composure, the interface begins to bug out. It’s a very nice touch.
The voice acting is top-notch and the game has a pretty authentic English flavour on the whole. Frank, Sally and Gavin are a charismatic trio of foul-mouthed rogues with distinct personalities and solid chemistry. Dialogue flows well and the story progresses smoothly, with some entertaining twists and turns along the way. Suffice to say, the job isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, and Kenny Hogan is up to much more than a little mischief. It would be nice if the characters got a bit more time to banter, though – a lot of the dialogue is strictly business.
Exploration in Sunday Gold – solving puzzles, picking locks and poking your nose where it shouldn’t be – is handled in point-and-click adventure style. Certain actions cost AP to perform and AP is replenished by ending your turn. When that happens, the enemy ‘moves’, taking a random action – for example, raising the alert level, or triggering a combat encounter. If a character’s mental state is frayed, the party might even start to argue – resolve it the wrong way and you risk things turning violent.
Your AP then carries over into the game’s JRPG style turn-based battles, which play a bit like Octopath Traveler or Persona. Attacking and using skills will spend your AP, while guarding will restore it. The combat provides a decent challenge, with only one or two nasty encounters in the game. Once you figure things out, though, it’s easy to rely on just a few skills for the whole game – for better or worse.
All of this meshes together to create a loop that encourages thoughtful action. Is it worth searching every coat pocket and cabinet (many of which are empty) at the risk of tougher battles? Or should you focus on getting the job done first, at the risk of missing out on weapons and equipment?
This balancing act of risk vs. reward peaks with a very cool puzzle boss in the second chapter that strictly limits your AP. Mess around too much and it’s game over, but there’s valuable goodies to pilfer if you can handle things efficiently.
That said, it’s not a perfect system. Some interactions are clearly designed to drain your AP and force extra turns, while juggling between characters to micro-manage AP gets tedious past a point. It gets worse when you have to shuffle your inventory around constantly, handing key items off to whoever has the AP available to actually use them.
It also means you can easily end a turn, get ambushed, and end the fight with no AP left to spend on exploration. Inevitably you’ll end up slowing down fights so that you end them with your health and AP topped off, which bogs down the pacing considerably.
On the whole, I think that Sunday Gold‘s biggest failing is that – in almost every aspect – it could have done more. The game lasts a comfortable 10-11 hours (if you scrounge about for goodies and optional objectives) and moves at a good pace, but the ending feels abrupt and leaves a lot of threads hanging. Certain plot points come and go without a lot of explanation, and London itself feels under-explored. The setting is interesting, but we see so little of it.
Similarly, the gameplay has good ideas that could have been built upon. The balancing act of ‘resources spent vs. plunder gained’ quickly turns out not to mean much. At worst you’ll get into a fight you didn’t want, but the combat is simple enough that it doesn’t feel like a threat. Managing your party’s AP becomes more of a nuisance than a matter of risk and reward.
That said, it’s not a bad problem to have when you leave a game wishing there was more of it. What Sunday Gold has to offer is very solid in its own right and certainly worth checking out at its budget price-point. I’d definitely like to see a sequel or expansion somewhere down the line.
Sunday Gold offers an enjoyable adventure through dystopian London with a unique blend of gameplay styles. It’s challenging enough to be fun without being unforgiving, but it does feature some systems that aren’t fully realised or are just a bit annoying.
The game’s excellent style and presentation are it’s standout features, but Sunday Gold is a well rounded package on the whole and boasts great sequel potential. Sensibly priced at about £15, it’s definitely worth checking out.