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Review

Sunday Gold Review

Dog days

There’s a crunchy ambition to Sunday Gold that I can’t help but admire, even now. Developer BKOM Studios have made something interesting here, if not entirely successful or even enjoyable. A genre blend that stitches together the oft-overlooked point-and-click adventure with turn-based combat lifted right from an RPG, Sunday Gold has eyes firmly planted on the horizon and subsequently stumbles on the run to it.

Sunday Gold’s dystopian trappings and crude bravado will be immediately familiar to anyone with an interest in cyberpunk/futuristic-noir storytelling. You play as a trio of societal outcasts as they scrap their way through a corporate conspiracy against the backdrop of 2070 London that has well and truly gone to shit. The crew consists of Frank, a suave, if gruff, lockpicker, Sally, Frank’s associate and brawler, and recruit Gavin, the contractually obligated tech-head. Gavin enlists Frank and Sally to help him break into the offices of his former employer, the eminently looming Hogan Industries.

Sunday Gold invites you into a dystopian nightmare

As far as calls to adventure go, it’s all rather humdrum. Sunday Gold’s London is exactly the place you’d expect it to be based on the premise – grimdark and class divided, blood flowing as freely in the streets as the rain that insistently pours down from above. Capitalism has run amok here, as is its wont, and the result is Hogan Industries’ own Raccoon City populated by economically crushed people who turn to violent animal sport for entertainment. That last point was the only one that truly stuck with me as the game forefronts these cyborg-dog abominations and doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the blood sport they are created to participate in.

The gang’s adventure quickly escalates from the initial office affair into a Hogan Industries corpo assault, skulking and bashing their way through secret laboratories and elaborately wealthy homes. Getting the job done will see you splitting your time between traditional point-and-click gameplay, a small selection of mini-games and copious amounts of turn-based battles. It’s a striking combination, blending mechanical concepts from its distinct genres to create a wholistic new one. For instance, you’ll pull from the same pool of action points regardless of the activity. Want to search that drawer? Two points. Want to use one of your fancy knife skills in a fight? Another three points.

Stylised and fun combat eventually gives way to tedium

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Both in theory and initially this system is kind of thrilling, if only for its uniqueness. But it’s that same blending of genres that ultimately undoes Sunday Gold. Each ‘turn’ lets you explore the environment, using your action points to attempt puzzles and so on, but if you mess things up and run out of points, you’ll need to end your turn. At the end of each turn, however, the game’s backend churns and raises the risk of being discovered by enemies who very much want you dead. If you’re randomly discovered, you’ll be thrown into a combat sequence that can’t be skipped or avoided, burning through consumables and, potentially, leaving you at the end of the battle with no action points. So, you end your turn again, regain some points, and are potentially found once more.

It’s an endless cycle of bullshit that undermines the best of Sunday Gold’s genres. Exploration and investigation of its world is relatively enjoyable and comes out faring far better than its combat sequences, however. Puzzles are usually organically solved and relatively compelling, I even broke out a pen and paper for a couple of them, which is to me always a good sign. Elsewhere the minigames are far too frequent and inoffensive to the point of actively dull, bar the hacking game that elicited a fair few “oh fuck off” moments from me.

To find the four-digit code you punch in numbers and the game tells you the usual array of correct, correct but in the wrong place, and incorrect. Only Sunday Gold doesn’t indicate which signifier aligns to which choice you’ve made and will frequently obfuscate the information if your character is suffering from panicked mania (an active debuff from the overworld). It’s exhausting and boring, the worst possible combination for an experience you’re expected to repeat countless times over during the game.

I never want to see this puzzle again

Speaking of which, Sunday Gold’s turn-based combat wears out its welcome within the first chapter. Which is a shame because it’s not inherently bad at all, often hitting all the beats a satisfying system would need. You can overlay character skills, like Sally’s dual tank/healer role, with Gavin’s ability to deal limited but persistent damage to groups and Frank’s all-rounder knifey-gunny tricks. The game’s skill tree allows for incremental boosts to these skills, as well as passive exploration traits. In short bursts it all works and provides a fun distraction from puzzle solving, but Sunday Gold throws far too many battles at you and with increasingly tiring difficulty spikes.

Enemies have certain weaknesses that can be exploited to whittle down their armour ranking, eventually breaking them and enforcing a stunned state in which extra damage can be dealt. Early-game skirmishes are a tense but manageable balancing act between action points, exploitable openings and defensive manoeuvres, but as the number of enemies you fight triples and their health bars expand, the back and forth becomes tedious. Worse still are the game’s boss fights that feel straight-up unfair, requiring lengthy engagements that can be undone in seconds thanks to cheap enemy healing moments.

Frank can use action points to highlight interactive items in an environment

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At least the vibes are good. Sunday Gold has a fantastic grasp on aesthetic tone and deploys small flourishes all over to build a cohesive overall look. My personal favourite being the Killer7-like video glitches and abrupt model movements to indicate that a character has shifted position in the overworld. It’s also obvious at a glance how well realised Sunday Gold’s art direction is, especially when looking at the talking head portraits of our main cast. Grimy and darkly drawn comic book-style exaggerated faces and disproportionate bodies make the characters in Sunday Gold striking.

Final Thoughts

Ambitious to a fault but still brimming with decent vibes and potential, Sunday Gold is more of a disappointment than an abject failure. Its point-and-click adventure game roots are the best served among its buffet of ideas, with nicely fleshed-out environments to skulk about in and solve a host of puzzles, even if the mini-games are frequently derailing the pacing. But its turn-based combat is what ultimately takes the shine off, a dull and frustrating slog that not even some neat world-building and unique genre blending can overcome.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Sunday Gold Review
Scooby-Dud
An ambitious blend of genres that winds up a jack of many trades but a master of none, Sunday Gold deserves credit for its aesthetics and goals but it’s difficult to recommend this trip to the races.
The Good
Cool art direction and tone
Point-and-click adventure mechanics are fun
Early game shows great promise of the genre blending concept
The Bad
Forgettable riff on dystopian fiction
Unbalanced action point system
Frustrating turn-based combat
That goddamn hacking mini-game
5.5
Glass Half Full
  • BKOM Studios
  • Team 17
  • PC
  • October 13th, 2022

Sunday Gold Review
Scooby-Dud
An ambitious blend of genres that winds up a jack of many trades but a master of none, Sunday Gold deserves credit for its aesthetics and goals but it’s difficult to recommend this trip to the races.
The Good
Cool art direction and tone
Point-and-click adventure mechanics are fun
Early game shows great promise of the genre blending concept
The Bad
Forgettable riff on dystopian fiction
Unbalanced action point system
Frustrating turn-based combat
That goddamn hacking mini-game
5.5
Glass Half Full
Written By James Wood

One part pretentious academic and one part goofy dickhead, James is often found defending strange games and frowning at the popular ones, but he's happy to play just about everything in between. An unbridled love for FromSoftware's pantheon, a keen eye for vibes first experiences, and an insistence on the Oxford comma have marked his time in the industry.

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