by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Almost Too Good of a Simulation (cntd)
While I appreciate the game’s extremely isolated setting and the unique angle to the narrative that it brings, I think Sunset really would have benefitted from breaking out of it for effect, even just at the end. There are all these things that are apparently happening according to my character’s journal that she writes while working – a brother that’s leading the freedom fighters, military checkpoints, museums and monuments being destroyed – that I think could have been a lot more impactful if we were able to see the consequences more personally.
While I appreciate the game’s focus on one character – our character – in order to paint a more intimate portrait of the events at hand, I can’t help but feel that we at least needed a bit more from Ortega. At the end in particular you are given a choice (that I won’t spoil here). Wait a half hour (literally, a real-time half out) for something, or leave immediately. I waited that half hour expecting some payoff given the nature of the decision. I sat at my computer that whole time because I hadn’t gotten up yet, and I didn’t want to break immersion. I walked around and got a last look at the place I started to really feel a connection with. Then the time was up and – a few things are alluded to have supposedly happened off screen. I felt extremely let down, and it ended the game on a very anticlimactic note for me.
Gameplay and Presentation
The reason I’ve spent so much time talking about how the story is presented is because this isn’t really a game. It’s an audio-book that plays while you do things. Gameplay is completely limited to walking around the apartment and clicking one of three interaction buttons that really all do the same thing. It’s not a bad thing – I would love to see more narratively centered games that I can sit back and ride – it just means there isn’t much gameplay to discuss. The only real “game” elements come in choosing how to do certain tasks. Many tasks have the option for a “warm” interact, which pushes your relationship with Ortega to a more romantic angle, or “cool” interacts, which are more neutral. For example, you can chose to sew a sweater with a heart shape, or with plain, normal stitching. You can stack books on a shelf, or you can make a playful little book display. Unfortunately it doesn't really matter which one you pick since you very rarely actually interact with Ortega. Actually, it doesn’t even really matter if you complete the tasks on your daily list. The directions literally say there is no bonus for completing them. Again, I’m definitely open to these narrative roller coaster games, but I would also like to see at least some impact from my choices or an alternate way to make it seem more like a game and less like a maid simulator with an audio book playing in the background during the more dull parts.
Tale of Tales has made a very good call with whomever they selected as the voice actor for the main character. She has a real sincerity to her that sells both the highs and lows the character goes through. Even during the parts that dragged for me it was not due to a lack of believable speech. The early 70’s setting is also a plus, filling the apartment with the vibrant colors and unique deco style the decade is known for. Unfortunately the graphics leave quite a bit to be desired, but the colors, along with a surprisingly effective (although disappointingly scarce) soundtrack, make the apartment a fine place to spend a few hours.
Sunset isn’t like many games you have played before. While it has some pacing issues at times, the game’s portrayal of its themes and narrative are intimately personal and, wholistically, deeply effective. While I do think the game is priced high for a two hour adventure without much replay value, there is no denying that it’s a great way to spend an evening playing through in one go. If nothing else, play it because it’s different and, at the end of the day, isn’t doing something different what this hobby is all about?
Touching story, adult presentation of narrative and themes, great voice acting.
A few dull stretches, anti-climactic final minutes, and dated visuals.