Sunday Gold Offers Turn-Based Combat, Puzzles and Supreme Style

Players who check out Sunday Gold on Steam would be forgiven if they come away from the game’s main page without knowing what to expect. The unique title tries to do a lot of different things, including mixing in quite a few game elements that don’t normally work all that well together. But Sunday Gold somehow makes it work, at least about as well as a title probably could.

For example, Sunday Gold on the surface is a point and click adventure, akin to something like Lacuna or maybe As Dusk Falls. But it goes way beyond that with a heavy emphasis on turn-based combat, RPG-like character building and plenty of puzzles and puzzle-like minigames, some of which are extremely challenging. And if Sunday Gold were not well put together with an interesting story, intense characters and lots and lots of style, the mix would probably not work out so well. As it stands, players who really enjoy one specific element like turn-based combat are probably going to be somewhat unhappy at the difficult puzzles, while those who play a lot of turn-based adventures will be challenged by the combat. However, the narrative is so compelling and the title so stylish overall that it’s worth it to push through the parts that are less-enjoyable in order to move the story along and see what happens next.

As far as the story is concerned, Sunday Gold follows the lives of three down-on-their-luck criminals who have fallen on hard times despite each of them possessing some impressive skills. All of these characters are portrayed by voice actors who did a great job, and you can tell that each of them really got into their characters and probably even enjoyed all the wise-cracking comments they got to make while the characters were going through their heist activities. Each character is also hand-drawn in a strikingly artistic style that really helps to make the story come alive even more. And there are a lot of nice extra touches too, like having their portraits change as they take damage in combat so that they look increasingly desperate and bloody if things don’t swing their way.

Frank is the leader of the group, and also a career criminal. Apparently his last heist did not go very well, and he has not been working very steadily since then. He’s cynical and dour, but can also be motivational with his team when needed, although in his own sarcastic way. The story begins with Frank, and it pretty much keeps the focus on him even though the other two characters also get to shine. He’s also good at lockpicking (which is a minigame included in Sunday Gold) and fighting with both rifles and knives.

Sally had worked with Frank before in the past and had since tried to live as a law-abiding citizen with a regular job. But she apparently really missed the criminal life, and she actually puts the new mission together for the team. She is the bruiser of the group, pummeling people with her brass-knuckle-wearing fists in turn-based combat and also breaking down doors and other objects in a minigame. She is also the team medic and can spend an action in combat to heal up herself or the other members of the team – a skill that I would highly recommend you max out quickly if you want to survive long in Sunday Gold.

Gavin is the final member of the team, and he’s not a criminal by nature. He’s an IT guy who got laid off by his company and wants to hire the team of Sally and Frank for revenge. His idea is to break into his old workplace and steal information that can be sold back to the company or to their competitors. As a rookie thief, he’s prone to losing his composure (which is a stat you have to monitor in Sunday Gold), but he learns fast and can level up quickly. Not surprisingly, he’s a skilled hacker (which is also presented in a minigame), and he is also handy with both a baseball bat and explosives in combat.

The gameplay follows the three lovable losers as they go on Gavin’s heist, which, of course, turns out to be a lot more complicated than they thought. Players are generally presented with a scene, like a parking garage, and have to decide which highlightable objects they want to interact with, each of which costs action points (APs). So for example, jimmying open a car trunk might cost three action points for one of the characters, and they each have about seven per turn depending on their current buffs and de-buffs. Performing a minigame like lockpicking, hacking a computer or picking up something really heavy also costs APs even if the minigame is ultimately unsuccessful. So that can be a risk, but the minigames are not too difficult, and you can buy skills when the characters level up to make them less challenging or bypass them all together.

Once everyone has expended all of their APs, a turn ends and a little status monitor will show whether or not the guards are more or less suspicious about the situation. As the suspicion level rises, there is a risk that a random combat will ensue. There are also several story-based fights that have to be fought regardless, so expect to be in combat a lot.

The fighting system in Sunday Gold is turn based and fairly simplistic. Characters can make normal attacks or perform special actions on their turns, all of which can be upgraded when the characters level, in return for spending APs. And the AP pool is the same one used in the point-and-click adventure section, so it’s easy to get caught in a fight with low or no APs, which makes it difficult because your first action in that case needs to be the guard or rest one to regain more points – which your opponents will take advantage of by pummeling you. The fights in Sunday Gold are pretty brutal actually, especially the boss battles. And there are no difficulty levels that players can set, so if they are not very good at turn-based combat, then they will surely struggle with it here. Having Sally maxed out with her healing action can help, as well as using consumable objects like grenades or items that can grant more action points and other buffs in combat.

The gameplay loop is pretty much the same for the entire game. First you explore environments looking for clues and doing the minigames, then fight in turn-based combat before going back to the story and the point and click section. And in addition to the minigames, there are also some advanced puzzles to solve that might require Googling their solutions if players are not proficient in video game type puzzles and their sometimes convoluted logic.

As mentioned before, Sunday Gold combines a lot of different elements that don’t necessarily go well together. Puzzle gamers will like the puzzles (most of them are quite challenging, some are very difficult) but will probably hate the brutal turn-based combat. Meanwhile, those who enjoy titles like XCOM and fighting turn by turn are likely to be stymied by some of the puzzles, especially the main ones that exist outside of the minigames. There is one that takes place in a server room that is extremely difficult to master, and made all that much harder because the aforementioned situational timer is ticking down as players spend their APs trying to work the puzzle. I admit I used a guide on that one because trying to work it out on my own made my brain hurt.

What saves Sunday Gold is the fact that it’s dripping with story and atmosphere to the point that most players will likely want to push through the parts they don’t like to play more of the ones they do, and also to advance the story. Even so, being able to set some level of difficulty, maybe offering easier fights or more action points per turn in adventure mode or something, would probably open up Sunday Gold to be enjoyed by more people.

As it stands now, Sunday Gold is a lot of fun to play and also rewarding, but requires a big commitment from players to push through the elements that they don’t normally like to deal with. It’s currently on sale for under $10 on Steam, so there is not much risk if players want to take a chance on a stylish thriller that might force them out of their comfort zones, but Sunday Gold offers nice rewards for doing so.

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