a shallow but enjoyable proof of concept

Set in a futuristic cyberpunk Britain complete with talking cars, cyborgs and more mentions of pints and pubs than you’d hear in a first-year uni digs, Sunday Gold is on a mission to redeem the point-and-click adventure game, a genre that’s practically dormant in 2022 outside of the occasional smash-hit. The meat of Sunday Gold’s campaign drops you in small, detail-rich environments, tasking you with solving multi-layered puzzles by finding and correctly utilising key items. However, there’s a twist. Sunday Gold is also a turn-based action game.

Between stints of puzzle-solving, you’re dropped into tactical combat encounters, using your squad of three anti-heroes to bring down a range of enemies. It’s a compelling premise for a new take on the standard point-and-click adventure, but while there’s definitely promise in developer BKOM’s vision, Sunday Gold ultimately feels more like a proof of concept than a fully-fledged reimagining of the genre.

That’s not to say it’s a bad game. In truth, it’s actually Sunday Gold’s wealth of inspired ideas that leaves you craving more. For a hybrid game stitching two opposing genres together, BKOM has put a lot of thought into how a point-and-click puzzler and a turn-based action romp should bleed into one, and the way it blends both worlds is easily its most engaging element.

Sunday Gold. Credit: BKOM Studios.
Sunday Gold. Credit: BKOM Studios.

Neither aspect of the game feels totally separate. Point and click segments, for example, are dictated by turns, with each of the game’s three protagonists able to interact with the environment based on the number of “action points” they possess. To restock action points, you have to end your turn, giving the enemy the opportunity to increase the area’s “alert level” (making combat encounters harder) or send in units to initiate a fight.

Meanwhile the weapons, gear and items you scavenge while solving puzzles can be used to better equip each of your three protagonists in combat encounters. If you’re playing smart, you can even use fights to stock up on extra action points to prevent wasting additional turns in the puzzle segments. Although neither the point-and-click or turn-based combat scenarios are particularly complex, the synergy between the pair creates something original and compelling.

It’s surprising just how well they complement each other. Every point-and-click segment is made more tactical by its turn-based mechanics, while challenging combat scenarios are less daunting when you realise you can head back through environments and search for consumables or gear.

Sunday Gold. Credit: BKOM Studios.
Sunday Gold. Credit: BKOM Studios.

Alongside its interesting hybrid genre premise, Sunday Gold also pays a lot of attention to its setting, centring its narrative in an eccentric, dystopian take on near-future London. The story itself follows Frank, Sally and Gavin: three down-on-their-luck crooks coming together to score a big payday by exposing a greedy billionaire’s twisted experiments. Bar some well-written anti-capitalist satire, the tale itself is largely forgettable, offering a by-the-numbers sci-fi plot that lacks gripping twists and turns. However, the world it’s set in is far less of an afterthought.

The art style is stunning, offering cel-shaded comic-book visuals mixed with exaggerated character designs that feel like striking caricatures. It’s very reminiscent of 2019’s Disco Elysium, although it switches the oil-painted world of Revachol for colourful comic strip transitions and attacks that land with a visualised “BANG” ripped stripped out of Adam West’s Batman.

And then there’s the game’s playful tone, which injects plenty of black comedy and tongue-in-cheek British charm into proceedings. Whether through characters like the silver-tongued Frank – who moans about warm pints moments before executing daring heists with a cigarette hanging from his mouth – or the lore-rich dystopian environments you get to explore, Sunday Gold’s three main chapters set up a memorable locale that’s bleak and grimy while still not taking itself too seriously.

Sunday Gold. Credit: BKOM Studios, Team17.
Sunday Gold. Credit: BKOM Studios, Team17.

But despite its wealth of ideas and striking sci-fi aesthetic setting up a refreshing new take on the point-and-click genre, Sunday Gold’s problem is there’s never enough depth to make the entire package feel like anything more than a bundle of interesting ideas.

Combat is entertaining in small doses, but its systems are barebones and enemies are damage sponges, leading to long fights mashing the attack command (and listening to the same obnoxious voice lines) while waiting for a foe’s health bar to inevitably empty. There are mini-games for each character too, but (bar Gavin’s hacking mini-game which, at the time of writing, is buggy and prone to providing incorrect information) they’re easy and reused frequently. As for the point-and-click segments, most of the puzzles are relatively simple, lacking the rewarding sense of challenge the genre was built on.

It’s frustrating because Sunday Gold frequently introduces novel ideas. Early in the game, it adds a stress mechanic, tasking you with monitoring your characters’ stress levels to stop them from hallucinating or rejecting commands in battle. Later, it also introduces branching choices that allow you to decide how a set piece plays out, whether that’s picking a stealthy route to your objective or opting to charge in guns blazing.

But these are always surface-level additions. If a character’s stress level plummets, all that changes is having to contend with a timer for commands, which is barely a hindrance considering you’re mostly utilising a small pool of attacks. The choice system has the same problem. It’s an inventive idea, but is used sparingly and only changes tiny segments of the overall mission.

That lack of substance means Sunday Gold falls a little short. It’s the foundation of something special, sporting smart, original ideas and a captivating world. But it always feels like its core mechanics and concepts aren’t fleshed out enough to leave a mark. The end result is an enjoyable futuristic romp for sure, but one that’s too shallow to fully execute its best ideas.

Sunday Gold hits PC on September 13.

The Verdict

Sunday Gold is an ambitious game with some smart mechanics. The way it seamlessly weaves a point-and-click adventure with a turn-based action romp is inspired, while its satirical dystopian future is a ton of fun to explore. However, it struggles to expand its concepts past their surface level, leaving an experience that lacks depth.

Pros

  • Smartly interweaves the point-and-click and turn-based action genres in unexpected ways
  • A stunning art style and interesting setting make for a unique world that’s fun to explore

Cons

  • Combat lacks depth and enemies absorb large amounts of damage, leading to long fights with little strategy required
  • Point-and-click sections pose simple puzzles that aren’t too difficult to complete
  • Ideas such as the stress mechanic and diverging paths are interesting, but never evolve past a surface level

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