sun 10/12/2023

Sunset | reviews, news & interviews



A story of violent revolution, told without violence, from the sidelines

'Sunset': You were working as a cleaner in a penthouse suite, when I met you…

1972, a South American revolution, seen through the eyes of a cleaner. Sunset neatly side-steps the usual banana republic videogame clichés by shifting focus. You are neither the Generalissimo lording it over a strategy game, nor the first-person soldier running through the jungles. You're a cleaner.

Of course, you're not just any cleaner. You're a US engineering graduate who has, in seeking a better life, ended up working a menial job in the fictional Anchuria, for a rich man with links, it emerges, to the current dictator – General Miraflores. And a dictator facing an increasingly forceful rebellion.

Initially, that all feels far away in the rooftop penthouse. Each day, in the golden hour before sunset, you take the lift up there to perform whatever chores Ortega, your client, asks. Clean the windows, tidy the plants, send a letter. The game sees you wandering Ortega's initially desolate penthouse suite – the sun slowly sinking outside as you check out his books, water his plants and wonder why he has so little stuff.

Sunset adventure game from Tale Of TalesSlowly though, with your help (optionally) Ortega's beautifully-realised 70s pad takes on a life of its own. Books appear, then records, then secret encoded files, left untidily on his desk as he learns to trust your gentle presence.

Do you try and decode the files? Or just tidy them away? Do you riposte to Ortega's gently flirtatious notes, respond with something negative or just ignore them? Do you even bother cleaning house for your absent client? Do you diligently mop or mope in an armchair? The gameplay here is purely in the very domestic choices you make – which chores and what other stuff you do.

As you make each choice though, the violence and chaos happening outside the plate-glass windows comes rolling towards you. Your brother joins the rebels; your relationship with both him and your absent employer becomes more complex. Every choice changes the nature of those relationships and leads you in a slightly different direction.

Sunset adventure game from Tale Of TalesPerhaps, more interestingly, the simple, repetitive act of cleaning this place, that is simultaneously a sterile showcase of rich vapidity, and increasingly a home you know and like, as it changes, delivers a beautifully subtle story in itself.

You catch yourself in new clothes in a shiny window reflection, while outside a helicopter skims low over a horizon towards a building on fire in the distance. Or you notice more cigarette butts and untidy piles of books, Ortega holding a birthday party for one, with lots of booze. Detail, familiarity, place – Sunset uses them to great advantage. And to tell a tale of loneliness and longing, of how emotional conflict mirrors broader events.

All that said, be warned, Sunset fails on two major points. First, it's massively buggy as of present – and required numerous reboots per hour's play. Secondly, the game does try to not-so-subtly steer you towards the more positive interactions with Ortega. But at least this allows for plenty of replay value – to see how the story shifts if you snub his playful and gentle advances.

Detail, familiarity, place – Sunset uses them to great advantage...


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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