Sunday Gold Review: An Average Day in Central London Simulator


Sunday Gold invites the player into a fascinating crossover between an adventure game and an RPG set in the London of a not-so-distant future. Is it worth your time? Check out our Review!


Pregaming

Honestly, I’m ashamed that this title somehow flew under my radar and I’d also like to ask my dear colleagues to stop calling it Disco Elysium-like because everything with a rough kind of comic art style with Noir elements is somehow just that. But Sunday Gold plays like a weird crossover between Monkey Island and CRPGs like Baldurs Gate. And is probably my new favorite weird game I played all year.

Maybe we should have more triple-A gap years because the amount of really good indie titles this year is insane and I want to keep that ball rolling. But let’s try and give Sunday Gold the praise and critique it deserves.

Sunday Gold is an adventure game by BKOM Studios from Quebec Canada. Previously the studio has worked on licensed mobile titles and even on some bigger games such as Age of Empires IV. And I hope that Sunday Gold is the title that puts them on the map because honestly, it is the kind of weird blend of genre and passion project that I’d like to see more of. But we should probably explain what Sunday Gold is.

The plot of Sunday Gold starts simple, gangsta and certified British cool guy Frank Barber links up with his former partner in crime Sally to discuss business opportunities. Set in the dark and gritty London of 2070 Frank just kinda wastes away, living his best life as a selfish Robin Hood. All while the world around him falls into a craze of watching and cheering undead cybernetic dogs mauling another on the racetrack. All funded by a local douche called Kerry Hogan who has his hands in just about everything.

And Sunday Gold indulges in telling a story about the man vs the machine and the machines they create and isn’t exactly subtle about it. Neither does it want to and I only applaud it for it since writers who use subtext are cowards. Instead of being some kind of nuanced take on how we live in a society, you’ll get a pulpy noir story in which all characters maxed out the stat ‘being British’ paired with a bunch of gore, body horror, and snappy dialogue. So maybe we can go on and call Sunday Gold something along the lines of Full Throttle (that other amazing Ron Gilbert game) directed by Sir Tarantino of Great Britain.

Now that we’ve got clickbait quotes out of the way, I want to shower Sunday Gold with praise and some minor criticism. But if anything you’ve read up to this point so far even kind of intrigues you, go buy it. Seriously all my complaints about Sunday Gold kinda just vanish because I revel in how quirky and fun it allows itself to be.

Looking Sharp

Earlier I complained about how everyone compared Sunday Golds visuals to Disco Elysium, the art major dropout in me started screaming the first time I read this. Sunday Gold’s art direction is a love letter to British and French noir comics with a healthy sprinkle of Sin City. While Disco Elysium lives in the realm of impressionist paintings. And I love how the static backgrounds are always from the perspective of a surveillance camera to always give you the illusion of being watched. That ties into the gameplay and we’ll get into that in a little bit.

Characters have also simple designs like muscle woman Sally being a fridge of a person, while the hunched-over Frank is always ready to strike a pose. Maybe it is the lasting influence of Persona 5 as well, that turn-based combat can at least look stylish. Character strike poses, the camera slides around and special attacks get barely animated stills that look like panels out of a comic book. Sunday Gold just oozes style but shows restraint when it has to.

Animations are choppy and character models are kept simple with barely any textures. But that’s not because the graphic artists behind it were lazy, no instead they are committed to the vision of being a playable multi-volume noir comic that wears its influences proudly on its chest.

The first Sunday Gold-Like

Sunday Gold’s gameplay is kinda divided into two sections but both also tie into each other. I might be wrong, but this is maybe the first adventure game in which you have turns while you explore areas and solve puzzles. Since you’re always invading a space, you got to be careful and time efficient with the exploring and puzzles as every turn you spend exposed to a camera will raise the alert status. Once you’ve caused too much trouble, you’ll have to deal with enemies regularly while also still going on about your business.

So you want to be careful but don’t waste too much time. All three of your characters start every round with a certain number of action points. Like a tabletop RPG, you can spend these on the area around you to solve puzzles and explore. And you’ll either progress the story or find resources that you can then use in combat. Since I played before release, I had the blessing and the curse of having to play the game blind. And unlike older adventure games, puzzle solving is pretty straightforward in most cases but you’re encouraged to plan ahead instead of just trying different solutions.

Because if you’re just gonna try out every possible solution, you’ll end up with regular kafuffle with the local security which will waste resources you’ll probably need at the end of a chapter. So in that regard, I guess we could also call Sunday Gold turn-based Resident Evil and get away with it.

All three of your characters have specializations, Frank is the leader of the crew and can hand out motivational buffs and lockpick. Sally is the muscle and tank while also being the only character with healing abilities and Gavin is the hacker/melee expert. The characters don’t share an inventory so you’ll sometimes find yourself shuffling key items around which is a little pointless. But the characters not sharing an inventory makes combat a lot more interesting as you’ll lose access to someone’s stash should they be downed in combat.

So there are actions that all characters can perform, like searching a trashcan or solving a small puzzle. And in others, you need to plan ahead and maximize your team’s efficiency. All of this works well to get you into the headspace of being a group of thieves sneaking about with no time to stop and smell the roses. You always feel watched and under pressure, and some of your findings will affect your psyche. Which in turn will make your exploration and fighting more difficult and the game is currently balanced in a way that you’re always running out of everything useful.

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Stress Inducing Combat

If you’ve played any kind of JRPG in the past 30 years you’ll be right at home in Sunday Gold. You have three characters that cover multiple combat roles and a very tight budget of health and items to heal yourself with. Those action points you spend in exploration also carry into combat. Normal actions cost only one action point while more specialized commands use more. But you start with the number of action points you ended your last turn and go with those spend into the next one. So in some situations when you know you’ll go into combat, you have to plan a little bit how you go in and come out of it.

The reason why linked Sunday Gold to Resident Evil earlier was not just the body horror and static camera views. Combat requires you to keep your cool and make use of all your resources, just using your standard and heavy-hitting attacks is just an easy way to get yourself killed. You have to make use of your entire arsenal at all times with the foresight of keeping some items for potential problems later. And it always feels like a tightrope act to go into a fight already beaten and battered only to survive by a hair.

Don’t be like me and try and mash yourself through combat instead, you need to dig deep and play with status effects and focus on enemies. After a certain amount of hits, enemies can be stunned and some are weaker towards a specific type of damage. Pair this with your abilities and some items and you can unlock a team of villainous goons to oblivion and beyond. And you can even make your way out of a tough boss fight after barely having survived another. That being said there is a steep difficulty here and if you’re not into that you’ll find yourself soft locked out of the rest of the game.

There is also the sanity meter, which can either be affected by discoveries in the exploration sections or by specific enemy skills. You can pep your psyche a little by taking some recreational substances or having a motivational talk with Frank. While in exploration, low sanity will just make the screen look a little fuzzy and weird, in combat it can have all kinds of negative effects depending on the character you’re playing. Either decreasing their crit chances or damage giving them a fear effect when bleeding. So you gotta take care of your team not only physically but also mentally.

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On Difficulty

The only reason why I can’t recommend Sunday Gold to everyone is that it is kinda hard. And not the kind of hard that is enjoyable, there are just moments when you inadvertently put yourself into a bad spot and you have to pray to the video game gods to bless you with critical hits. But after you die, you get at least the option to reload an earlier save file. So this is the double-edged sword here because putting yourself into a tricky situation and working yourself out of it is satisfying. But you also have to be into experimenting and digging deep.

While I haven’t the game completely, I have yet to run into a situation that forced me to reload an earlier file. But if you don’t like being beaten up in combat until all the systems finally click, it is a little unfortunate that there is no option to make combat easier and make the game more accessible.

Final Score 8,5/10

So I want to gush about Sunday Gold because it is very committed to its vision and the way it wants to tell its story. And I love how all its systems drag you into the headspace of those characters and their bizarre situations. The music is great and the art style sells the gritty tale of those three lovable goons trying to expose the big business. And my only real criticism here is that the game might be a little too hard in its combat sections to be enjoyed by everyone.

The combat is about as difficult to master as some of its harder riddles. And all of them were enjoyable to solve and Sunday Gold doesn’t fall into the usual hole of adventure games having bizarre solutions to its puzzles. All the other criticism I could lob against it like locking highlighting interactable elements behind an ability you need to waste precious action points on per turn immerses you into the game. Instead of wasting precious resources you start frantically scanning the screen again for something you may have missed.

Deep down I hope that many happy video game enjoyers will find a lot to love in Sunday Gold, yea it’s gory and a little on the nose with its story and dialogue but that’s what makes it charming, to begin with. And I want to see more of this weird hybrid genre and what it can evolve into. Go buy it, please.

A review copy was provided by the good folks at Team17 and if you want to read more game reviews or news and guides around your favorite esports, head on over to ESTNN

Sunday Gold releases on Thursday 13th October on Steam.

 



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