Sunday Gold may be set several decades in the future, but some things never change. The point & click adventure game opens with a rainy night in London, as protagonist Frank Barber finds himself kicked out of another dingy pub and left to sizzle in the downpour.
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The player’s first task is to get back in that pub: Barber is meant to be meeting an old acquaintance with promises of work, and as a washed-up thief he very much needs the cash. Trying to get back inside means piecing together an amusing sequence involving a crowbar, firecrackers and a sprawled-out bouncer and while it’s a neat little warm-up puzzle to solve, the real gem in Sunday Gold‘s opening scene is an unassuming newspaper.
The front page of this newspaper paints a miserable future of Britain in 2060, and is the players’ first experience with Sunday Gold‘s tremendous worldbuilding. Incessant rain has caused a housing crisis whereby thousands of homes have been made uninhabitable, and a familiar brand of government callousness scoffs at the cheek of those asking for “handouts” to avoid drowning or going homeless. All the while, capitalism runs amok with a fixation on ultraviolent dog fights: some things may never change, but others can always get worse.
But hey, at least this miserable glimpse into the future looks good. Sunday Gold‘s art style combines Disco Elysium‘s washed-out watercolour with colourful comic book tropes, complete with pop-out onomatopoeia. Visually the game is gorgeous, and thankfully this scenery doesn’t get in the way of finding what you need to click: if your mouse hovers over anything that can be clicked, the item in question will be outlined in a bright yellow that cuts through the each scene’s muted colours. This means that whenever your problem solving skills are stumped in Sunday Gold, it’s not for lack of clarity.
Instead, Sunday Gold‘s real challenges arrive when Frank and his team – his friend Sally from the pub, and grimy hacker Gavin – embark on a heist targeting the business of billionaire Kenny Hogan, who is introduced while ranting about how poor people deserve poverty because they’re not trying to succeed hard enough. As you break into Hogan’s offices, there’s a nice sense of teamwork as each character comes with their own skillset: Frank is deft with a lockpick, Gavin can hack into electrical objects, and Sally… Sally moves heavy things. Putting these skills into action involves three unique minigames that are finicky and at odds with the rest of Sunday Gold: Frank and Sally’s games involve clicking or holding your mouse down at the right time, while Gavin’s has players guessing the correct four-digit number – with extra confusing visual clutter if he’s been stressed out by something.
While these minigames are an attempt at injecting some excitement to Sunday Gold‘s slower pace, the game doesn’t need it, and they end up being the most vexing thing about the game. Even worse, interacting with the world uses up action points – and failing these frustrating exercises means you’ll have to spend even more trying again. In the heist, waiting around to replenish these action points raises the chances of an errant security guard finding you, which then initiates a turn-based battle. While Sunday Gold’s combat is passable, it’s annoying to have these jarring minigames carry so much weight.
When Team17 announced Sunday Gold, a striking art style invited comparisons to Disco Elysium – and those would be true, if Jason Statham had spent 20 minutes kicking Disco Elysium‘s head in. A futuristic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with robot dogs is a wonderful vision that developer BKOM Studios sells wonderfully, and despite a few stray steps, Sunday Gold is absolutely worth keeping an eye on if you’re after a delightfully miserable British adventure.