October 13, 2022
Sunday Gold is a unique experience from developer BKOM Studios and publisher Team 17 (known for the Worms series). Players control a party of three hooligans, exploring a rich, dystopian, Cyberpunk London in the 2070s as they work to untangle corporate conspiracies. This is particularly interesting because it is a creative blend of point-and-click adventures and turn-based combat. I only wish it were utilised and polished a little better.
The game kicks off in a London pub where we’re introduced to Frank. Frank’s a suave and swift lockpicker who gets into many fights but talks themselves out of just as many. After a hangout with their crime partner Sally, a burly, punk brute of a woman, they learn of whispers of valuable corporate information readily available to be gathered and sold. Handing this tantalising offer on a silver platter is Gavin, an anxious tech nerd that serves as a disgruntled ex-employee of the very company we’ll soon be infiltrating.
The big looming threat throughout is Hogan Industries, a tech company that has a stranglehold over this grunge, dystopic London. The creators behind some of the most high-end technology, including weaponry and drones, have also turned to create a racing league, featuring terrifying greyhound and robot hybrid atrocities. Seeming this won’t be the end of Hogan Industries’ reach, with ominous future plans, the gang must infiltrate key facilities across three chapters, hoping to unearth the secrets within.
If you’re at all familiar with the Cyberpunk genre, following the idea that powerful companies are always seeking growth and power, it’s easy to see how Sunday Gold progresses. Still, it’s an enjoyable thematic ride that makes for a compelling point-and-click adventure setting. You’ll sneak your way about IT offices, foreboding underground scientific facilities with disastrous results, and more. Backing all of this is a stylish and gritty graphic novel art style, confidently painting this intriguing blend of noir and sci-fi. It only helps to further bolster character design and worldbuilding. That very worldbuilding is bursting with flavour too — a deep, dark British world awaits in-game, reminding me of Watch Dogs: Legion, only stronger in concept. It’s a wonder this is achieved in a game so linear, opting to depict this London through curious readables and genre-apt storytelling.
Sunday Gold may not be the deep, branching narrative you’re after, clocking in only at about twelve to fifteen hours, depending on your speed and competence. It sadly will end a little abruptly, and not be the most impactful. At least its cast and world get even more realised as time goes on. If all else, I’ll remember the absolute vibes and those striking animated character portraits.
This is an ambitious game that functions as a unique blend of turn-based action and a point-and-click adventure with a sprinkling of RPG elements. In the early stretches, a great promise is exemplified. Sunday Gold is for the most part a welcome entry to the adventure genre. You’re never that stuck on what to do. Puzzles are also clever and not obtuse in the slightest, something that is seen less often in this type of affair. Natural investigation and tooling around will get you where you need to go, whether that’s finding hidden switches or operating complex mechanical devices.
Puzzle-solving will also require using the party member’s abilities. Frank can lockpick his way into safes and through doors, Sally can use her brute force to move heavy objects to reveal secrets and Gavin is handy with laptops and hacking. The former two may not be the most unique and demanding – requiring players to essentially button press when a marker is in a certain zone. The latter is more taxing, in a frustrating way. Gavin has a device that can be used to hack into computers, bypass security and the like. This minigame plays like Mastermind, where, using a predetermined series of numbers, players must work out the pin or combination.
In theory, an incorrect attempt will at least inform you of which numbers aren’t used in the pin at all, which are used but are in the wrong spot, and which are correct. Although sometimes the combination will seemingly randomly change the more you attempt. I’m still unsure whether this is a deliberate design decision for the illusion of challenge, or if it’s a bug. Regardless, it’s a brick wall that is entirely frustrating and removes the purpose of what it’s meant to be: feeling clever using logic and the process of elimination. There’s a skill later on for Frank that lets you bypass these minigames entirely. I strongly suggest you invest in it.
Sunday Gold not only uses Action Points to determine abilities used in its turn-based combat, but also just how much you can do in the moments of exploration. Each character has a certain amount of these points they can use to interact with or study objects. These can be restocked with various healing items and drugs, but when all are used up, you must end your ‘turn,’ which simultaneously recovers these points and raises the awareness meter of the enemies or guards of a given location. Early on, this creates an intriguing tension as you’ll hope to complete as many activities as possible before being potentially thrust into battle. However, in the late game, that awareness meter will fill instantly every single time you wait, resulting in a crawl of progression, with no option to flee fights in sight.
Turn-based battles early on are fun, with great strategy coming from utilising abilities and mastering elements and your foe’s weaknesses to exit battles on top. Typical boots-on-the-ground security guards will be weak to slashing attacks from Frank’s butterfly knife. Gavin, being the technical expert he is, can hack into enemy drones and turrets for damage or to turn them on your side. Players can also level up and earn new abilities, also offering even more viable tools under your belt. For example, Sally’s ability, a strong defence boost to the whole party, saved my behind more times than I can count.
There’s some decent difficulty added in combat via a ‘composure’ mechanic. Across the game, your cast will encounter some grizzly sights in the grim London underbelly. This (along with some enemies’ abilities) will lower the cast’s composure, resulting in a weaker performance in battle. On some turns your teammates may be too terrified to even make a move, perform friendly fire, or miss jabs at foes entirely. Most of the time, it serves as time pressure, where characters will only have a few seconds to act on their turn. This was a fun bonus spinning plate to handle mid-battle early on and can also be healed with certain abilities or items. Later on, my cast will have their composure lowered so frequently and quickly that I just learned to live and work with it.
However, in combat, you’ll also notice other weird design choices. It’s in this nitty-gritty that Sunday Gold begins to buckle under its own weight of ambition. Levelling only maxes out at ten, something I achieved for each member by the end of chapter two. This meant I still had a final chapter (five hours on my end) where I was receiving no benefits from battle. Worse still, reaching this level cap won’t even let you max out every ability, passive or otherwise, serving as another cruel reminder that you won’t be able to min/max.
Sunday Gold also commits a cardinal turn-based action sin. Many late fights are sluggish crawls to victory where you’ll damage an enemy only to have them heal themselves up all but a last final sliver. This means you’re progressing in damaging your foes, yes, but you’re really making infinitesimal chips away at their health. This can occur not only in the meatier bosses but also regular, run-of-the-mill enemies. As mentioned earlier, there is no way of fleeing a battle. To make matters worse, if you end a battle with everyone on low AP, and you’re in late-game with no healing items, you better believe you have no option but to end your exploration turn immediately. Then you’re right back into a battle you don’t want to be in. What that leaves is more artificial padding with no means of escape. What was at first turn-based joy, soon became turn-based Hell I was begging to end.
As an additional aside, I also experienced a handful of bugs in-game, including many auditory bugs that made songs and cues skip. Other instances were a few crashes and even a head-scratching moment where I had some important text read as code as I was making a vital choice in-game. I had to work with the game in that moment, hoping I picked the right indecipherable answer.
- A grim, dystopic world, complimented with a suave graphic novel art-style
- Better worldbuilding than other similar themed affairs
- Abilities will save you in a pinch
- Minigames are servicable at best and baffling at worst
- Slow combat in latter half results in artificial padding
- Level cap reached early
- Handful of technical bugs
A silky, suave graphic novel art-style and engaging Cyberpunk world can’t save Sunday Gold. With every strength on offer comes some weird design choices or bugs that will ruin your fun at every turn. This game is an experimental risk, blending both the point-and-click genre with turn-based combat, peppering in RPG progression. That mixture shows promise at the start but ultimately ends up being an average net loss. A gamble that’s not worth taking. Don’t place your bets on this one. Go all in elsewhere.