Sunset Shift is a free driving game with a surprisingly bleak message.
Most driving games concentrate on being as accurate as possible, finishing first or executing beautiful drifts and stunts. Sunset Shift is different, very different.
Taking place on an exotic island owned by a billionaire, Sunset Shift has you emptying the bins of the island’s well-to-do residents, under the tutelage of the billionaire’s son.
Developed by Spanish team Selkie Harbour, Sunset Shift is a free game where you drive your bin lorry to collection points. There, your lorry automatically fills up and it’s up to you to dump its contents among the island’s beautiful countryside.
It’s fly-tipping on a grand scale and prompts me to seriously ponder this billionaire’s eco credentials.
The island is split into four small towns and as more fancy condominiums are sold, the rubbish piles up higher and higher (presumably the standard of rubbish gets higher too). Planning your route as efficiently as possible is a must, considering one of the towns is quite remote.
Your trusty lorry can only take four loads of waste at a time, so as the days and months wear on (thankfully months and years can skip by after every collection round, which softens the repetitiveness somewhat) it becomes more and more difficult to find an empty piece of countryside to spoil.
Stig of the dump
And spoil it you shall, as the once verdant paradise slowly takes a turn for the worse, with dead trees and unsightly mountains of brown detritus punctuating the landscape. The billionaire’s son also deposits tons of waste around the island on his shifts, making each time skip a jarringly depressing experience.
Driving the lorry is a straightforward experience. You can use a gamepad to reverse park and perform three-point turns, or – as I did – use the keyboard’s WASD keys, pressing the spacebar to tip your payload onto an endangered species (perhaps).
The lorry feels weighty and surprisingly intuitive to drive, evoking art of rally with its presentation. The game environment is tinged with an orange hue – like the whole place exists in the golden hour (which makes sense for a game called ‘Sunset Shift’, I guess).
There’s a storyline to follow too, with the billionaire’s son living the high life in between rubbish collecting. It’s hedonism at its most self-absorbed: copious amounts of drinking, partying in plush villas and taking drugs on sun-kissed beaches are all par for the course. I’m going to assume my bin men don’t spend their downtime like this.
A love story develops, but the fact the island is slowly being destroyed while you kick back and enjoy yourself is never explicitly mentioned in the radio chatter. The music is enchantingly summery, evoking beach holidays and lazy days. There’s only one track but it’s a belter.
The game reaches a sudden conclusion. Bizarrely, the billionaire’s son radios to say his father has sold the island to the government for a huge profit, and you – as well as the island’s residents – are getting a decent slice of the proceeds. The reason? The government intends to solve its waste problems by turning the island into a literal dumping ground.
Everybody wins, right?
The camera pans out, highlighting the island’s bleak transformation from an exclusive paradise to a condemned landfill site. This was my fault.
Sunset Shift will take around 45-60 minutes to finish, and although its ecological message is on-the-nose, the final shot of the failing island is a stark reminder of our ignorant, self-obsessed nature. (Just look at any of your social media feeds as an example.)
Although not the main takeaway from this game, the driving is simple yet fun, and I had zero issues with pathfinding or figuring out what to do. Sunset Shift is repetitive but doesn’t outstay its welcome.
It’s worth playing for that final scene alone.
|Release date||22nd October 2022|
|Best played with||Gamepad|