Sunday Gold Hands-On Preview – IGN

In the hunt for something genuinely new, more and more developers are creating hybrids; smashing two genres together to make a wonderful Frankenstein’s monster of a game. Sunday Gold is one of the most enjoyably odd of these experiments I’ve seen in recent years. A mashup of Final Fantasy and Broken Sword, this slick-looking comic book crime drama is, bizarrely, a turn-based point-and-click adventure. And, from the three hours I’ve played so far, the combination appears to work surprisingly well.

Set in near-future London, where it’s always raining and the billionaires are fatter than they’ve ever been, Sunday Gold puts you in control of a trio of criminals attempting to bring down Kenny Hogan, the corrupt head of a massive corporation. The chunk I’ve played is cut from the very start, with the group’s objective being to infiltrate Hogan’s offices and steal a hard drive-full of incriminating data.

The quest for that data plays out, at least on the surface, like a pretty classic point-and-click adventure. Akin to your Monkey Islands and Gabriel Knights, you explore a bunch of locations in search of clues and items that fit together into a puzzle solution. CCTV needs to be disabled, drains need to be flooded to bring their contents to the surface, and secret passwords need to be unearthed from hidden spots. In the tradition of the genre, Sunday Gold embraces the pixel hunt; I spent a lot of time hovering my mouse over a room’s every item in search of something that could be picked up or interacted with.

But it’s when those items are found that Sunday Gold tears up the LucasArts rulebook. First, you have three protagonists, each skilled in a different art. Found a door that won’t open? You’ll need to have Frank apply his lockpicking skills. Need to burn through a computer’s security? Then hacker Gavin is your man. Want a heavy locker pushed aside? Trunchbull-like bruiser Sally has the muscle for it. Each of these skills is performed with a unique mini-game, with Frank’s cylinder-rotating lockpicking being the most enjoyably tactile of the bunch.

The party fulfills all the demands of the traditional role-playing manual, with each member having bespoke skills, traits, and upgrade trees. But it’s how this RPG layer links to the adventure layer that’s truly fascinating. Rather than being two separate components, these ideas bleed into each other. To make Frank pick a lock, for instance, you need to spend action points, just like you’d do in the classic Fallout games. But Frank only has so many action points he can use, and so if he’s run out they must be refreshed by… ending the turn.

Rather than being two separate components, the RPG and adventure layers bleed into each other.

Yes. Sunday Gold does have turn-based combat encounters, but turns also apply during regular adventuring. It also comes with a fantastically devilish wrinkle; progressing to a new turn increases the alert level of the security forces in the building. A turn ends with your trio listening to radio chatter, and the tension rises as you cross your fingers in hope of an “all clear”. But if you’ve made a bit of a mess, security will begin to make its moves, and guards may even arrive on the scene.

That alert system is entwined with a composure mechanic. Each of your three rebels can have their confidence shaken by the increasing fear that they may be caught, and hearing bad news will chip away at their respective meter. Some take the news worse than others; Frank and Sally are pretty hardened criminals, while Gavin is a newbie who freaks out pretty quickly. But everyone can fall prey to damaged composure, and all three party members have unique debuffs when their meters fall too low, including hallucinating enemies that aren’t really there.

Sunday Gold Screens

Even if you hold it together, you’ll eventually find yourself in the gun sights of a real guard or security drone. Combat is where Sunday Gold adheres the most to tradition. If you’ve played the likes of Persona or Final Fantasy, you’ll find the turn-based battles very familiar. Each character has regular attacks (ranged or melee, based on their equipment) as well as more elaborate special skills that cost a higher amount of action points to use. Some of the more potent skills, such as Frank’s precision aimed shot, need a turn to charge up, which adds a little plan-ahead-strategy. But beyond a guarding system, which skips a turn in order to replenish action points, it’s pretty much the JRPG battles playbook to the letter. That doesn’t make this aspect flawed – there definitely appears to be depth in the array of skills, healing items, and the variety of buffs/debuffs – but it’s certainly Sunday Gold’s most unremarkably conventional component, at least in its opening hours. I’m interested to see how things like composure and the alert levels combine with battles when the going gets rougher.

Combat is jazzed up by striking art design, which feels like an animated take on ‘adult’ graphic novels that have painterly panels. There’s definitely a nod to Persona in its exaggerated special attack animations, but overall the presentation is likely going to be mentioned in the same breath as Disco Elysium thanks to an oil paint-like veneer that coats the entire world. Its character portraits, fantastic font choice, and detailed environments make for what I can only describe as an ‘ugly-handsome’ world that I look forward to further exploring and dismantling. And the score, which has shades of Kavinsky in some of its bigger moments, promises to be a bit of an earworm.

If there’s anything I’m not sold on so far, it’s the story, which is admittedly a pretty vital component in both a point-and-click and an RPG. Frank, Sally, and Gavin are well drawn, with dialogue and personalities that are authentic to London caricatures, but in the opening segment their quest doesn’t quite have the same hook as Sunday Gold’s unique hybrid of systems or fantastic art. But it’s early hours, and as the trio uncover more about Kenny Hogan and his corrupt practices, there’s every chance that the plot may unfold into an exciting tale of working class rebellion. It’s the lure of that potential, as well as its experimental approach to classic adventuring, that has me signed up to play more when Sunday Gold releases later this year.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.

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