With dystopian settings all the rage these days, everyone is trying to put their own spin on the genre. From Cyberpunk 2077 to Hunger Games, every story is eager to show what’s unique to them, and in a genre with such wide competition it’s not easy. However, I have to hand it to GKOM’s newest title, Sunday Gold, because a dystopian future mixed with necromantic dog racing for sport is truly a combination I haven’t seen before.
Sunday Gold is the story of three criminals, Frank, Sally, and Gavin, who team up to infiltrate Hogan Industries on what is, allegedly, a job for easy money. Unfortunately, the three stumble upon something much darker and much more complicated than they had bargained for and end up going up against Kenny Logan himself, who is a psychotic mix between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, if they ended up looking like Mad Mod from the 2003 Teen Titans TV series. The plot and the setting are both full of intrigue but suffer from having a lot of worldbuilding crammed into a small timeframe. The ending also feels like a Deus ex Machina, which isn’t great, but was also not the worst option available to wrap things up. The titular Sunday Gold is a reanimated cyborg dog used for racing, owned by Kenny Logan, and used as an example of the worst of the worst dystopian problems.
As for the characters, they grow on you. Frank starts off as a degenerate hoodlum who doesn’t pay his bar tab, and while he still doesn’t pay his bar tab by the end of the game, you do get to see behind his bravado and façade of criminal nonchalance, to a person who at least has a heart. Sally, his usual business partner, is rough and tumble, kicks ass, and loves a bit of chaos, though her relationship with Frank gels considerably throughout the course of the game and slowly turns her into someone who you’re glad is on your side, instead of against you. Rounding out the trio is the third member, Gavin, a new recruit from the dark web that Sally found. He’s absolutely green around the ears and his cowardice at first grates on both the player and Frank, but he toughens up and proves his mettle as the story progresses.
Sunday Gold’s gameplay is the most unique thing about the game, blending the investigative nature of a point-and-click game with a turn-based combat system. Characters are given seven Action Points per turn, and these are used for most actions other than “Examine.” For example, pushing a button, picking a lock, and hacking a computer all use up action points. Once you run out of AP you end your “turn” and the enemy has a turn. Your alert level can be either decreased or increased, or you can be attacked by enemy guards. Your AP is then also used for moves in battle but can be regenerated in battle. However, the AP you have left at the end of a battle then carry on over into the investigative portion of the game, for example, if you end the battle and each character has 2 AP left, they will only have 2 AP to explore.
While the link between adventure and combat seems like a good idea, it’s frustratingly easy to get caught in a loop of low AP if you end battles by the skin of your teeth and then immediately need to end your turn to reset your AP, only to be attacked by more enemies. The alert system almost never goes down in between turns and the higher it is, the more likely you are to be attacked. It also interrupts the flow of the investigation and feels at times like you’re constantly fighting enemies in between doing one or two things at a time to move the plot forward.
There are three different mini-games that are repeated as you play through; Gavin hacks systems, Frank picks locks and Sally focuses her super strength. While the hacking was a simple logic problem and Sally's super strength takes some time to get the hang of, the lock-picking game was atrocious. You have a series of rings and need to find the constantly changing "sweet spot" highlighted in the rings, then click when the blue bar is within the sweet spot. While it sounds simple in theory, if you get any of the rings wrong you get booted back to the beginning of the puzzle, the blue bar must be completely within the sweet spot with no fraction of a side hanging out, and worst, if you use up all your attempts, you'll need to use another hefty chunk of action points to try a couple more. So, if your reflexes are too slow or too jumpy, you could conceivably be stuck trying to pick the same lock for half an hour or more, in between fights to regain AP.
The turn-based combat itself is fairly standard, but the maximum level cap of 10 ends up being a huge pain in the last few battles of the game where you’re heavily outranked by enemies that can fully regenerate their health multiple times. Just being able to level up skills past level 10 would be a help, even if the stats were still capped. Instead, I spent over two hours in a boss fight that I only won because the game seemingly decided to give up on the stalemate that could have extended for several hours more. The combat generally felt uneven and rough around the edges, especially some of the battles earlier in the game before you get Sally’s healing skill up to speed.
Sunday Gold’s art style is a lot of fun, with the combat and investigative portions looking like watercolor that was painted on 3D models, and details character portraits to go along with it. During combat the game also has several scenes that play out like motion comics for different attack and defense actions, leading to an action-oriented feel for these parts.
Overall, Sunday Gold was a rough ride from start to finish. The balance in combat was uneven and while the concept of Action Points carrying over between sections of the game is a fun concept, in practice it felt more like you were constantly under assault. The story was interesting, as were the characters, but the worldbuilding crammed too much into too short of a time. That, combined with the Deus ex Machina at the end left the story feeling sloppy and shallow. If you’re looking for a specifically dark brand of dystopia to sink your teeth into, or are more into combat than adventure games, you might still like Sunday Gold, but it’s more like Sunday Bronze for most.
TechRaptor reviewed Sunday Gold on PC with a copy [provided by the publisher/provided by the developer.
- Interesting Concept for Linking Combat and Adventure Gameplay
- 3D Watercolor Art Style
- Uneven Gameplay Balancing
- Frustrating Repetitive Battles Drag On
- Worldbuilding Crammed Into Too Small a Frame