The synopsis for upcoming interactive narrative game Sunset is unusual and so intriguing enough that it’s worth repeating here in full:
"A narrative-driven first-person video game that takes place in a single apartment in a fictional South American city in the early 1970s. You play a housekeeper called Angela Burnes. Every week, an hour before sunset, you visit the swanky bachelor pad of Gabriel Ortega. You are given a number of tasks to do, but the temptation to go through his stuff is irresistible. As you get to know your mysterious employer better, you are sucked into a rebellious plot against a notorious dictator Generalísimo Ricardo Miraflores."
As premises go, it’s certainly an interesting one, and Kickstarter backers agreed, funding the game at 270 percent of its goal. Hands-on preview code supplied to Gameplanet gives us a glimpse into Angela’s politically-charged world - a chance to play through three of the weekly, hour-long periods just before sunset that she spends wandering Ortega’s apartment over the course of a tumultuous year in the game’s fictional South American city.
The beginning of each sunset hour drenches Ortega’s apartment in the golden glow of the magic hour, bathing the resplendent height of '70s luxury decor in reds and golds. The designers apparently based the layout on a duplex design found in a 1970s issue of Playboy, which may provide you with some idea of the feel - Angela strolls around the conversation pit, the illuminated floating staircase, and the wet bar while taking in Ortega’s extensive art collection. A balcony view of the city initially seems peaceful, but the occasional gunshot ringing out indicates the unrest that is beginning to build. Sunset is deeply atmospheric, and developer Tale of Tales succeeds in creating an evocative mood.
Angela has only an hour (30 minutes in real time) before finishing work each day, and can spend it however she chooses. She may choose to tackle the tasks her employer has assigned her for that day (empty ashtrays; tidy desk) - tasks that advance the clock - or spend her time rifling through his possessions, playing his piano, and studying his artworks instead. Often she has a choice when interacting with objects; add some friendliness or flirtation to the relationship with her off-screen employer, or keep things strictly professional. When tidying away papers for example, she can simply pack them up in a briefcase, or leave Ortega a note offering to help him with his paperwork. In this way, and as Angela uncovers Ortega’s personality and secrets, the nature of their relationship can change, and this can in turn affect the ongoing story over the course of the year.
The nature of the preview, which presents an hour from near the start of the year, one near the middle, and one near the end, makes it difficult to get much of a sense of that overall narrative, which certainly appears to be the main attraction of the game. Even without much sorely needed context though, these three hours are enough to demonstrate the changes taking place in the world. Great hoards of art, rescued or looted during the conflict, arrive in Ortega’s apartment, helicopters circle overhead, areas in the apartment become accessible and inaccessible, and violence in the city outside the apartment increases. A diary entry before each hour clues the player into Angela’s state of mind and the current situation, and in the preview these reveal Angela taking a seemingly revolutionary bent, although a more pacifistic approach is also apparently possible.
Whether the adapting story and intriguing setting are enough to keep players gripped as they visit the same, relatively small space repetitively remain to be seen, but the game’s unusual premise and atmospheric presentation make it an experiment to keep an eye on.