London gangsters, dystopian cyberpunk themes, point-and-click turned-based action – can this Sunday Gold concoction meld together? The Finger Guns Review.
A grimy city brimming with crime. A tyrannical corporate figurehead up to no good, taking advantage of the lowly workers. A group of slimy, untrustworthy types roaming a miserable rainy city to find their lot in life. No, I’m not just talking about the current state of the British government, though Sunday Gold does an excellent job of portraying the messy existence our country currently finds itself in.
Positively brimming with character and atmosphere, Sunday Gold is a surprise indie gem that has a creative art style coupled with turn based combat and a Cyperpunk dystopian narrative of good ol’ Landan Taaaaaannn (I hope that translates the accent as well as actually hearing it). Cockney accents, stereotypical British Artful Dodgers, constant bleak darkness and rain, it’s got the lot of what makes our puddle-ravaged island so… great.
It’s gritty, it’s noir and it looks damn cool. However, does it end up a grizzled, beautiful Tom Hardy or a floundering Ed Miliband? Let’s see if this gold (sorry…) move pays off.
They Ain’t Nothing But A Gold Digger
Epitomising Sunday Gold’s affinity for nailing the British um… charm… is our trio of wily criminals. Frank is the wisecracking, no nonsense leader of the group. Loves a good cigarette and bottle of Birmingham’s finest paint thinner. Sally is one of his closest allies and is a veritable tank of a human, who equally as many good ideas as she does hot-headed plans for busting up more teeth than your nearest dentist. Gavin rounds out the lot, a newcomer to the group, he’s a typical nerdy hacker who wields a baseball bat unflatteringly and has a, more unstable side, shall we say.
Each personality is well written and they have clearly defined purposes and traits that make them unique. Frank’s seedy criminal background makes him ideal for lockpicking, Sally’s powerful stature makes her the muscle and Gavin can hack shit cause that’s what techies do. There’s a lot of great dialogue in here, with particular moments having me burst out laughing like Frank shouting for Gavin to “shut the fuck up!” as he whines when a battle starts.
The overarching narrative follows the group having come off of a job gone thoroughly wrong in the weeks before, with Sally offering Frank a chance to make some quick dosh by robbing a mega-conglomerate run by a mutton-chop bearded guy who looks a little too similar to Britain’s infamous Jimmy Saville. On the job, they pick up Gavin who helps the duo out. As it progresses, there’s new themes about cybernetic enhancements, forced experiments, rich taking advantage of poor – the usual dystopian stuff.
While it’s not anything wholly original, the writing is excellent and the banter between the group makes the journey flourish. The antagonist is a one-note piece of trash but in a way that’s done well, with some effort later in the game to explain his motivations. It ends a little bit abruptly but overall, I enjoyed spending time with these low-life characters and their ridiculous approaches to dealing with their financial predicament.
A Gold Day In Hell
Sunday Gold is split into two gameplay types: a point-and-click exploration and puzzle solving element, mixed in with turn based battles. Starting with the former, I should be straight up that point-and-click games aren’t usually my schtick. Grim Fandango was about as far as my experience with them goes. Having said that, Sunday Gold is streamlined enough to be intuitive without losing some of the complexity that makes the genre satisfying.
Remember the Grim Fandango puzzle of having to drink a metallic bottle of booze to set off a lie-detector to get an item? That shit was mental gymnastics 101, no shame in admitting I had to look that up. Frank and the geezers can freely move to any interactable object and examine them, with specific actions like searching things, lockpicking, hacking or adjusting say, valves or puzzle items costing action points (AP).
Across the three chapters, there’ll be a variety of rooms to navigate, each connected via doors that are usually locked or with your progress blocked, requiring you to find keycards or access ways etc. In general, the puzzle solving elements work really well. You do X thing which lets you find Y item which allows you to go back and do Z thing you couldn’t before.
AP isn’t shared across characters and each time you end your turn an alert meter will increase, raising the likelihood of a random battle initiating. This adds a nice layer of tactical thinking as you want to maximise your AP usage during exploration to prevent raising the alert meter, which frequently requires moving items between characters and prioritising what actions to take. If you suck at solving a puzzle, you’ll also face some punishment, so no lolly-gagging ya muppet.
Should you choose to, you can also search every orifice for collectibles, side objectives and equipment or weapons that will aid your progress in combat. Seriously, some of the best equipment you can straight up miss, so take your time to explore and grab everything, it’s worth it in the long run. Given I normally hate this type of gameplay, I was impressed how intuitive the system is and how I found myself engrossed in solving the puzzles. A late game section was a bit more time-consuming, but it never asks you to go mentally visit Andromeda to work out what to do next, which is great.
As you end turns or reach certain areas, your gang of lowlifes will need to do some dirty work. Turn based combat is once again streamlined in a positive way. With 3 consistent party members throughout and a skill tree where you have access to every character’s skill at all times once they’re unlocked, gone is the micro-managing and menu surfing of traditional RPGs or turn based titles. While I love a good spreadsheet as much as the next guy (shut up Gavin!), God it’s tedious managing party stuff.
Instead, your party can equip different melee and ranged options. Gavin and Sally use handguns and bats/knuckle dusters, while Frank utilises shotguns and knives (it’s a London thing). Different weapons inflict different kinds of damage like slashing, blunt, tech or piercing, requiring you to think about enemy compositions and what they’re resistant or weak to. Having every character’s skills available throughout means you can experiment freely and find strategies that work, instead of sticking with one setup and brute-forcing through like can happen in other titles.
If there’s one criticism of this system it’s that some skills are abusable as sin, like Frank’s upgraded three-burst or Gavin’s EMP special which neutralises tech enemies, rendering even late game foes as weak as anything. The variety of enemies across the 3 chapters also dwindles towards the end and it relies a bit too heavily on constant random encounters in chapter 3 which got frustrating when I just wanted to progress, but these are relatively small issues in the grand scheme of it.
The composure meter of the party is an interesting “insanity” like mechanic whereby interacting with horrendous things in the environment or taking certain types of damage causes your team to lose their cool. Once it dips below certain thresholds, unsavoury issues start to arise. Critical words pop up on screen, you’ll be given time-limits to make moves (which is insanely pressuring in boss fights, I gotta say) and your gang may start making irrational decisions.
It’s always been a great concept but perfecting it has always been tough and here, provided you liberally use Frank’s ability to restore composure and manage your consumables use, you’ll likely find yourself unfazed by it through the game. I never dropped below about 70% unless the story mandated it or a boss fight triggered it, but when the timer popped up for the first time to choose an action before my character panicked, I certainly felt that impetus, so it works.
Managing your AP applies both in combat and in exploration, as mentioned before, which creates an interesting dynamic. Finish a battle on few AP points means you won’t have much to solve puzzles or complete interactions, so you’ll finish your turn quickly which could push you into more fights. As such, it’s prudent to finish a fight after having used Guard to accumulate as many AP as possible. It has consistently thinking through every move if you want to succeed. The risk with this is that it can teeter on becoming a chore to constantly keep your AP up. Luckily, this is offset by plenty of consumables to be found in the world.
Speaking of which, the London inspired paradise of Sunday Gold looks mostly great. The comic book/visual novel style allows the environments to have a strong sense of personality and atmosphere. A boring local pub can be transformed into a vibrant bastion against the enveloping shadow of the streets while an incinerator will fill you dread when it’s designed with blood-curdling decomposing bodies everywhere.
A lot of detail has been added to every interactable location, whether it be clever use of environmental cues for puzzles or the touches of swagger to how characters pull off their special abilities. While it’s not horrifically violent, it doesn’t pull it’s punches showing off some bloody scenes and the animations that indicate critical or powerful hits have a certain panache that makes them super satisfying. Watching Gavin smash a guard’s head with a baseball bat is just feral dopamine.
There are some rough edges however. Certain character models and sections can lack texture work and the graphical style can lend itself to having open areas with not a lot to draw your attention at points. As mentioned before, the lack of enemy variety catches up with the game eventually and it probably could have gone a little further with more creative enemy designs. I’d hazard a guess some of this was due to financial constraints requiring some creative problem-solving, especially for an indie title like this, but it can be noticeable.
Outside of this, Sunday Gold ran well without any crashes. It would flip between 100+ FPS to sometimes around 40-50, but the dips never disrupted the gameplay experience. One issue arose after a longer play session where the audio started intermittently cutting out, but this was fixed with a quick reboot.
Time For Brass Tax
Sunday Gold is an excellent entry into both the point-and-click and turned based action genre. It’s streamlined features like ease of leveling up, party management and puzzle approach make it as smooth as your favourite Brummy whiskey. Despite this, the combat system has an engaging level of depth which carries it well through it’s 9-10 hour campaign.
Frank, Sally and Gavin are a ragtag bunch of foolhardy criminals but their personality and charisma is effectively brought out through great writing and witty dialogue. While there are some issues with the gameplay encounters towards the end and some rough edges on what is an otherwise visually appealing graphical style, it has more than enough to take on the toughest of metals.
London isn’t the most enticing looking city, given its penchant for rain, grime and misery, but Sunday Gold puts all of these facets to good use to create a stellar and engaging indie game that’ll equally entice and intrigue you.
Sunday Gold is a gem mined from the rough and the dirt. The writing is on point and witty, the gameplay streamlined yet satisfying and the art style is catchy and engrossing. There are some rough edges to this golden nugget, but it’s enough to form an ingot which the game’s playable gang would promptly steal. Peaky Blinders meets comic book noir, better grab your whiskey and peaked cap.
Sunday Gold is launching on PC via Steam on October 13th, 2022.
Developer: BKOM Studios
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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