BKOM Studios’ Sunday Gold is exactly what I would call a game which is all about style with little to offer in terms of substance. Aesthetically, it has everything you want from a game set in dystopian London. Unfortunately, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired as I certainly didn’t have a desire to progress.
Set in a dystopian, futuristic London where crime and homelessness is at an all-time high, criminal trio Frank, Sally and Gavin team up to win big by selling the dark secrets of a mega-corporation. It’s a stereotypical storyline for a dystopian tale, but I for one didn’t have a problem with this, as it’s one I enjoy regardless. When Sally approaches the cash-strapped Frank with a lead on a potential job that could earn them a lot, they meet with an ex-employee of Hogan Industries, Gavin. The latter claims to have access to some files containing dark secrets around billionaire CEO, Kenny Hogan, who is also heavily involved in cybernetic dog races with his winning dog, the titular Sunday Gold. The trio formulate a heist plan to break into Gavin’s old office and download the files.
Sunday Gold’s gameplay consists of turn-based and point-and-click combat, exploration, and puzzles. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses which you will need to learn and utilise in both combat and exploration. Frank, an ex-con, can lockpick, uses rifles and blades in combat, and as the leader of the group, can boost the group’s stats. Sally is a medic, but can also use her brute strength while exploring: she’ll use her fists and pistols in combat. Gavin can hack terminals and will also use explosives, melee weapons, and pistols in combat. Sunday Gold ensures that each member of the team feels valuable, even Gavin who can become quite the burden with his tendency to lose composure quickly and easily.
You’ll explore each area, unlock rooms, and craft certain tools to get to your objective. You search the area using point-and-click mechanics and will occasionally have to solve some inventory, deduction, and observation puzzles. The puzzles are one aspect of the gameplay that Sunday Gold does really well. There’s a variety of puzzle types to keep things interesting, and some of them genuinely had me scratching my head while trying to work them out. While exploring, you’ll often need to spend action points to perform certain actions. Each character has seven action points available in each turn. Once they’re out of action points, you can either take a consumable (though most consumables come with side effects) or use Frank’s leadership motivation skills to get more. Otherwise, you’ll have to end the turn. In each chapter, you have an alert metre which indicates how close you are to blowing your cover. This metre builds up if you set alarms off during exploration, or make a loud noise. But it will build up significantly by ending a turn as you’re spending too long in the area. Each time you end a turn, the game basically flips a coin to decide whether security is suspicious enough to investigate the area. If they do, a fight will ensue.
Although the point-and-click exploration and puzzles were the highlight of Sunday Gold, even these didn’t come without their flaws. For one, I hate it when the game expects you to backtrack on items you’ve already inspected after you’ve figured out what you need. It makes more sense for the character to pick it up along with everything else that they will carry ‘just in case,’ rather than leaving that one specific item because they don’t think it’s of interest at the time.
During exploration, each character will have a minigame when using their special skill. Frank has a quick-time lockpicking minigame, Gavin has a deduction-based hacking minigame, and Sally has a dexterity focused meditation minigame for channelling her strength for the specific task (the dexterity part of this can be turned off for accessibility purposes). The hacking minigame is one of the best I’ve seen since the more recent Fallout games. It requires you to work out the code by entering a set of numbers. Gavin’s hacking gadget will then use colour indicators to tell you how many numbers are right but in the wrong place, how many are completely wrong, and how many are right and also in the right place. You’ll have a certain number of tries to work out what the code is, and I had to keep a notepad by my side to complete these. Despite this, I felt like the minigames were unneeded.
Annoyingly, each character has their own inventory. If you pick up an item which will benefit another character, you have to go into the inventory menu and give it to them. I don’t know why the inventory is separate for each character but it did make things annoying when one would investigate an area alone and I had left consumables with the other characters. I felt like this function just made Sunday Gold more complicated than it needed to be. From the inventory management menu, you’ll also be able to equip each character with any gear you’ve picked up. This will usually come in the form of a better weapon, armour, bullet type, or some form of implant or wearable item which will provide perks and boost their stats. If you’ve picked up a weapon that the selected character can’t use, you’ll again have to give it to a character who can.
Another metre you’ll have to keep an eye on is each character’s composure. Due to the stressful situations the trio often find themselves in, they can lose their composure which will cause them to panic and act impulsively. You can maintain composure with consumables and leadership abilities. Some characters can handle stress better than others, while some will be triggered by certain situations. Although I found the composure system to be an interesting idea which added further depth to the gameplay mechanics, I did feel that it was too harsh. For one, characters will start hearing voices and hallucinating just because the composure isn’t at 100%. On top of this, the loss of composure brought on some really annoying effects, the most frustrating of these being how text keeps jumbling up which makes it difficult to read. The hacking minigames also become painfully difficult with low composure because the numbers and symbol start fluctuating.
As each character levels up, you’ll be given two skill points to spend on either a certain skill that character can perform, such as Sally’s healing, or one of their stats within their talent tree. I found this skills system to be well put together, and I felt like I was able to build the character to my preferred playstyle. Unfortunately, you can’t increase the maximum action points that each character has, so you’re stuck with just seven per character until the end of the game.
I also found that the autosaving wasn’t frequent enough. I noticed that after completing the tutorial and starting the first chapter, if I hadn’t manually saved, the game would take me straight back to the beginning when I closed and rebooted it. On top of this, it doesn’t autosave very often in the larger levels either. I often found that unless I stayed on top of my manual saves and saved literally after every event, dying in a fight would not take me back to before that fight started, but instead to before I had completed the last objective. Meaning I would often have to repeat time-consuming and challenging puzzles to get back to that fight. On top of this, there seemed to be a problem with the way the game loads saves from the title screen, as it will select the last autosave on record rather than your last manual save. My game also randomly lost a load of autosaves, and also wouldn’t order them at the time they were saved or even mark when they were saved (this figure just stayed on 1/1/0001 00.00.00). It’s lucky I was manually saving, then, as otherwise I would have lost a huge amount of progress.
The heaviest downside in Sunday Gold for me was the fight sequences. Sunday Gold does a good job with the point-and-click puzzle and exploration elements, but the fights are really exhausting. They are long, repetitive, and really the parts of the game that I just didn’t look forward to. It doesn’t help that they happen way too often either. In fact, I would say at least 60% of the gameplay consists of these drawn out, boring fights. They’re triggered if you end a turn and will also happen during random events, often out of the blue so you can’t prepare. The boss fights don’t differ much from regular fights either: they just pile on the shield and health points onto the boss and partner them up with two regular enemies. So it just goes on for longer.
A fight will consist of each character taking it in turns to fight. The order of each character’s turn is randomised, so it’s purely based on luck whether you’ll have the advantage of starting first. When fighting, your options are to either use a skill which could be a powerful attack or something like Sally’s healing ability, throw out a regular attack, use a consumable such as a grenade or healing item, or put up a guard. Guarding will recover some action points and either counterattack a charged attack from your opponent or offer up some protection from any oncoming attacks until that character’s next turn. If a character has low composure, you’ll be set a time limit to pick your move before they panic and act compulsively, either cowering or doing something random. This got annoying when the game was constantly glitching by closing the action menu while you were trying to pick a move – hence running out of time and wasting that turn. Each move costs an action point. Once your character is out of action points, they can either throw up a guard or use an item.
I would also say that the fights are heavily unbalanced, especially the boss fights. The boss fights usually occur at the end of each chapter, when the area has already been ransacked for consumables and you’ve been through multiple fights and are left with lasting damage. By this point, you’re probably missing health points and don’t have the consumables to recover them, or your character is low on composure. The game doesn’t give you the chance to pick up any more loot before a boss, and will often spring it upon you right after another challenging fight. Even in the first chapter, you come across the first boss fight with Ruth right after a segment where you’ve taken down three groups of guards while Gavin is hacking into the security system. By the time you encounter Ruth, you’re completely exhausted, out of consumables, and your characters are already battered. Ruth is no easy feat either. This fight was just plain unenjoyable as Ruth can also take out half the health of all three of your characters in one swipe. In chapter 2, there’s one boss fight after another. They go on for ages too, at least ten minutes. It gets boring very quickly and the fights just turn into something that you actually dread.
I also have some qualms with the way the alert metre works. Once this starts to fill up, you risk triggering guards entering the room when you end a turn. So, if you’re completely out of action points then you have no choice but to end the turn and potentially start a fight in order to progress. But this just creates a vicious cycle because you will use action points during the fight, then just come through with only what you had left at the end of the fight. So you’ve ended a turn for a fraction of your total action points. On top of this, you’re usually searching the area for healing items too. So I got to a point where I had barely any health, Sally was in another room so couldn’t heal anybody, and I was triggering fights because I had no more action points to look for healing consumables, which was then either killing me or lowering my health further. Not to mention consistently doing fights all the time gets exhausting REALLY quickly and just ruins their enjoyment altogether. Sunday Gold also has no difficulty settings.
And on top of it all, if your character is knocked out during a fight and isn’t resuscitated by Sally by the end, then they won’t get all that hard earned XP. Which just makes it a complete waste of time with no benefit.
The visuals are heavily comic-book inspired, with hand-drawn environments and cut scenes to paint the grim picture of 2070s London. They are put together using a visual concept developed by artists at VOLTA. During important dialogue, the dialogue screen will show the conversation’s transcript next to some hand drawn paintings of the characters, which will change expression. Although the paintings are great and go well with the gritty tones of Sunday Gold, I do wish there were more facial expression variations. They mostly just shift from normal to absolutely furious over the tiniest things. I also wasn’t a fan of how the player has to keep clicking through the dialogue because it won’t just roll through automatically.
The audio in Sunday Gold is another highlight. It’s fully voice-acted and the cast do a great job with the dark humour-filled dialogue, which is also entertaining and full of charm. Nearly all the characters have heavy cockney accents which builds on the whole London setting. The music is also thrilling, though only in the case of the boss battles. I felt that there wasn’t enough variation in the regular fights for musuc to not become quickly repetitive, especially with how much time you’ll be spending on these segments. And although the dialogue is well-written and funny, during exploration each character will have the same dialogue when commenting on an item they are examining, which I felt was quite lazy, especially when the three are so different to one another. Sally has a fear of blood, she’s not going to react the same way to it as Frank.
As well as the dialogue writing, I also loved the environmental storytelling. This was a game where I really enjoyed reading through the emails found on computers or the newspapers giving some background into 2070s London. There’s one funny set of emails from Gavin’s computer back when he worked as an IT technician and is having to deal with office workers who are having problems with their computers, one of which thinks they have ‘deleted the internet’ when it won’t load properly.
Although Sunday Gold has taken a unique turn by combining a point-and-click puzzle game with a RPG-focused turn-based combat system. The point-and-click elements are where it shines, whereas its combat actually just straight up ruined the game for me. Sunday Gold may have taken too much on its plate here.
Jess played Sunday Gold on PC with a review code.