An intriguing blend of Gone Home’s voyeuristic exploration and Paper, Please’s civilian warfare aptly describes Tale of Tales’ (The Path, The Graveyard) upcoming release, Sunset. Cultivating a meaningful relationship with a client through your position as a housekeeper in a war-torn country, Sunset is currently squandering its ambitious concept with poor execution.

Taking place in a fictional South American city during the ‘70s, Sunset follows Angela Burnes, an American tourist effectively stranded due to a recent coups d’état. She picks up a gig housekeeping for an affluent, married doctor named Gabriel Ortega. An hour before sunset, players enter Gabriel’s penthouse to complete small chores.

The conceit of the game concerns the remote relationship between the player, as Angela, and Gabriel. The chores can be completed with either aloof professionalism or warm friendliness. The latter occasionally dips into the flirtatious and triggers changes in the apartment at later dates. In addition, players can find side chores or simply explore the apartment, reading Angela’s inner monologues about some of the furniture pieces, magazines and artwork.

Previewing three nights out of 44 at different points in the game, the consequences of your decisions at present time feel very subtle yet effective. When choosing to be friendly – leaving notes, moving particular chess pieces, playing certain vinyl records, stacking bottles in creative patterns – the responses from the unseen Gabriel fires off the same positive endorphins as a notification on Twitter. Though the overall narrative seems unaffected by your choices, the day-to-day changes at least tantalize.

The game’s chief issue arises when trying to be professional: it’s simply not an engrossing choice in comparison to friendliness. As opposed to the other choice, professionalism feels far more static as Gabriel doesn’t respond to your actions. Touching on Papers, Please, no matter the choice made in a given situation, the gameplay and story will remain intriguing while continuing to contribute to the overall theme. Regardless of your actions, the core relationship linked to the narrative remains while the neat little alterations in the apartment are absent. We know Gabriel is married, hinting at some possibilities in that regard, but none of the current consequences play with that conflict of interest. Hopefully the final game makes professionalism a worthy decision.

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A consistent focus for Tale of Tales is atmosphere, and Sunset assuredly strikes immediate gold as you exit an elevator into a penthouse drenched in the purple and yellow hues of dusk. Contrasting eccentric ‘70s interior design – button-operated everything, hidden panels, Asian-inspired furnishings – with the war-torn, sun-kissed city a pane of glass away creates a surreal and engaging tone. Indeed, perhaps Sunset’s strongest assets is the rising conflict through the apartment window. Gun shots and explosions ring out as you tidy up Gabriel’s pristine artwork. The juxtaposition creates an unease, as if unwanted visitors are boarding the penthouse elevator as you clean up.

However, minor technical issues snowball into major distractions from the overall atmosphere. It’s easy to admire the art but the reality of the apartment dissipates when walking around. Angela’s awkward character animation can be seen in windows and reflective surfaces. There’s some strange interaction with geometry and graphical clipping. Angela’s voice actor does a fine job, but the audio mix seems to be peaking, or simply popping as if done without a filter. The character of Angela moves sluggishly with a minor start-up hitch to simulate walking. Unfortunately, in a game full of and starting and stopping, it becomes irritating. Also, the reality of the setting is hurt by the fact that players can immediately turn back around into the elevator without completing their chores at no penalty.

Sunset knows what it wants to be, and it’s exciting when its subtle deviations work. But with a one-sided choice mechanic and inconsistent production values, the latest from Tale of Tales is liable to trip on its way to the finish line. We shall see when the game release sometime this spring.

About The Author

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Matt Perez is a freelance writer from South Jersey. The journalism graduate produces narrative-focused YouTube gaming videos under the name strummerdood. When not comparing Dark Souls to Rustin Cohle, he occasionally retweets eloquent people @mattryanperez.

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