Sunset

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Sunset Game Poster Image
Unconventional war game forces cultural reflection.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Sunset is quiet, introspective, considerate of war and how cultures, families, relationships shift around it -- something well worth considering.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The protagonist and the person she works for make questionable choices, but in pursuit of what they believe is right.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, easy to learn.

Violence

Though windows are broken and gunfire is heard, you don't cause any of the violence that happens around you.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ashtrays, wine bottles seen in the apartment, but you can't partake. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sunset is a provocative and insightful downloadable narrative that plays out in the early 1970s through the eyes of Angela Burnes, an American student living abroad in the fictional South American city of San Bavon in a fictional republic called Anchuria. Angela has been hired as a housekeeper for a wealthy industrialist named Gabriel Ortega. There's really no offensive content within the game; although you see wine bottles and ashtrays, you can't interact with them. In fact, you don't do anything directly, just pass along information to your boss or your family based on what you pick up where you are.

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What's it about?

In SUNSET, you play as Angela Burnes, a student working as a housekeeper in a fictional South American city. In time, she realizes her employer may soon be in the crosshairs of the strife caused by the actual Cold War in the late 1970s. It sounds very heavy and dense, but the material is brought to life through the eyes of someone who's hired to do a series of mundane tasks in a single hour every evening. The game makes some leaps forward in time, but as you progress, you go from helping your employer (whom you never meet) unpack and turn a large apartment into a home to discovering and seeing firsthand the ways that culture and art come under threat by war. The flip of this compression in time is seeing how certain items are recognized as powerful symbols of the people -- and what those who warmonger also feel threatened by. Any number of things can happen, depending on how you decide to do your job.

Is it any good?

Sunset is so different and so truly special that it shouldn't be compared to other video games and certainly not other video games about war. There are no guns, no bullets, no head shots, and no violence. It's not a perfect game by any measure -- it can be very, very sluggishly paced in some spots, where very little happens on some days, and then a ton can happen on others -- though how it's paced and how it handles as a game feels like the wrong way to approach thinking about this. This is like playing an interactive, very dense museum exhibit to learn about war and how cultures shift. As you see the books, the pieces of art, or the albums that flutter through this apartment, the titles and covers help you reflect on what it means for people to be willing to fight and die for what they believe.

There's a bit of a learning curve, of course. At first, you're likely to panic that you're not doing all your duties quickly enough, but as you start to get more used to the layout of the apartment, you can sit and write in your diary for the entire hour if you'd prefer. You can thumb through your boss' personal belongings and learn so much more about him and your character based on how she reacts -- or judges -- him. This is a world that feels alive, and it's upsetting to watch it be affected and damaged by the conflict playing out elsewhere in the same city. Windows get smashed. Sometimes you hear gunfire. It's interesting how much more effective a single, mostly abandoned apartment can be at telling the story of war than a soldier with a gun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sacrifices made during wartime. Even if you're still a young child or a teenager, do you remember instances when you made sacrifices? 

  • Would you ever live and work in another country? What would you do if one of them became ravaged or afflicted by war? 

  • Is it ever a moral or just thing to steal from your employer? 

Game details

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