Like anything with this blog, I came across Sunset Mall by luck and by digging into the games on the horizon. Rarely do any games distinctly say they are a vaporwave game or at least in its stylistics choices so I was immediately intrigued.
This game was in a free demo build which is how I found it originally. Then I saw that the developer was going to publish it on Steam as a fully fleshed out game. I had to try it out for myself and talk to the developer if I was able too. Luckily, I was able to do both.
What is the Game About and How does it Play?
Sunset Mall is an first person, arcade game where you are in a mall with the main objective of buying all the items on a randomly generated list and then leaving the mall as soon as possible while avoiding enemies who want to steal your money which you need in order to complete the objective.
According to the developer, the game was inspired by “Mall Quest”, which is another vaporwave-styled game but is no longer available to purchase and is difficult to find a proper download of after doing some research. I did see it on some sites here and there, but I always exercise caution before just downloading a bunch of files from random websites. There is no longer a developer profile page or a proper URL to download or purchase the game from as far as I can tell.
Sunset Mall was officially published on September 23rd 2020 but a demo version was made available to the public on itch.io in April 2020 under the developer’s account, Heckling Hank. The demo was updated gradually and was reported with the paid version now available, the demo will still be free but will no longer be updated.
Sunset Mall starts with you being dropped into randomly generated mall in with a text box giving you a very quick breakdown of the controls and objective.
When you move the mouse down, you can see the list of items you must purchase and how much money you have in your wallet.
The mall (like any you would see in most places) is full of stores, ATM machines and snack machines. You purchase the items in the stores by getting close to them where you will see the name of the item and then click to purchase.
The ATM machines allow you to withdraw more money and the snack machine can help replenish your energy meter which is a lightening bolt on the upper left corner of the screen to help you move faster.
You need to keep moving in order to avoid the people in pink as they are chasing you around to steal money from you. Basically they are pick-pockets. If all the money in your wallet is stolen, the game ends. To win, you must buy all the items on the list, keep away from the muggers, and leave the mall once you finish the list.
You can also interact with other mall goers and you can buy as much as you want even if you complete the list. The game ends either by you leaving after getting all the items or all your money it stolen, your wallet has $0, and its game over.
There is also a few challenges along with the general quick play that is the default mode. The challenges are basically if you can beat the game under a certain amount of time.
Do I Recommend it and My Thoughts About the Game?
Overall for a small scale game, its pretty fun and something you can pick up easily. It has high replay value with the included challenges. Finally, the game is very inexpensive for only $3 USD so its highly accessibility for any player looking to try it.
The controls themselves feel what I expected them too. Not too floaty and you can easily out maneuver the pick-pockets in the area when you time the use of the energy bar correctly. They are not super difficult to avoid, but they can creep up on you so your constantly looking around making sire they are next to you as you complete each purchase as fast you can. So its a simple game in terms of what you have to do, but there it does a good job keeping your attention to keep moving and focusing on your surroundings.
I was pleased that some things that I didn’t like from the demo build was improved in the final paid version. The main thing was the thieves who try and take money from you. Its much easier to avoid them as in the demo build they seemed to follow you everywhere no matter how far you are away from them which was kind of odd to me. Now in the official build, they function more like you would expect. When you’re in their range they follow you but if you manage to skirt away from them far enough, they seem to lose interest. In my eyes, that makes more sense so I’m happy that was modified.
A game I reviewed a while back called Sunrise Land which was very similar to Sunset Mall in the fact its short so you replay it over and over to do better. You also have to keep moving to avoid enemies as well as complete certain objectives to escape. However, unlike Sunrise Land there are some extra features that do add a lot more to it. The other mall goers in each session actually have dialogue and as I said before there are challenge modes you can try, plus weird little gags you find. For example, on the menu page that looks like a Window 95 OS, some of the shortcuts are functional and there is a duck one with an achievement if you click on that duck 1,000 times. Its just these little additions that make the game endearing to me. I love when indie games like this add in stuff that makes no real sense but it makes it feel like it was their own personal project. Something they wanted to make.
However, I do have some criticisms that I wanted to address:
I noticed when I try and look down at my list, the pop ups from the items when I’m close to them in the stores can overlap the list so I can’t see it for a few seconds. It also happens when I buy an item and there is the pop up that you purchased something. I was trying to do a timed session where I do the objectives as fast as possible and that does hinder it a little bit when you want to quickly look down and move on.
Another criticism I have is unlike Mall Quest, the items themselves don’t have a lot of variety in the sprites. For example, on my list was a soccer ball so I went to one of the toy stores. All the toys were G.I. Joe sprites and in order to know which one was which, you had to stand in front of each one until the text displays its a soccer ball. In Mall Quest, they reused a lot of the sprites but the toys and games had some variety like skateboards and Stretch Armstrong dolls and so on. I think as a future update, there could be some variety added to the item sprites to make the store fronts a little less bland. Its just a minor nitpick from a presentation standpoint.
Overall, I enjoyed this game for its small gags and for what it is and the price, I can see a lot of Mall Quest and vaporwave enthusiasts enjoying the game like I did.
Q&A With The Developer
Vapor: Let’s start with your background in the video game industry. When did you find yourself making video games and what drew you to the field?
Cyan: I remember being a child and coming up with so many ideas for games, and different ways I could make a game better.
When I was 9 years old I got my hands on Unity for the first time, I remember just putting things into a scene and being very happy with what I had made, it was a great feeling and I still get that same feeling whenever I complete a project or game idea that I have had.
Vapor: I saw you made a few games up to this point from your itch.io page. Are those the only games you made or were their other projects you have been apart of?
Cyan: I have made 100’s of games, some are still stored on my computer and I might release them some day, some I have deleted and forgotten about, the ones on my Itch.io page are games that I am still actively working on, but with Sunset Mall’s Steam release here I have had hardly any time to work on them.
Vapor: When did you come up with this idea to make a vaporwave themed video game? What was your bolt of inspiration?
Cyan: I can’t deny that a game called “Mall Quest” was my inspiration, the core mechanic of the game was the same as Sunset Mall’s, you are in a mall, you have a shopping list and you need to buy everything on that list all while avoiding enemies.
My plan was to try to recreate the game since these days “Mall Quest” is hard to find online anymore, after I had successfully recreated the game, my plan was to try and make it stand out and be it’s own game, adding new modes, and different mechanics, this version is the one I am publishing on Steam.
Vapor: When and how were you introduced to vaporwave and what is your thoughts on the style, themes, and art surrounding it?
Cyan: My first introduction to Vaporwave was stumbling across Pyrocynical on YouTube, his outro music was amazing, when searching for the outro on YouTube, I found pages and pages of Vaporwave remixes, then when I saw some of the thumbnails I googled “Vaporwave images”, scrolled and saved for what was possibly hours and from then on I have always been a huge fan of Vaporwave.
Vapor: How long was the process to conceptualize and create Sunset Mall?
Cyan: All in all it took me in work hours probably a month to conceptualize, research and develop the game, but after releases and updates, I took a week break here and there, I didn’t really plan much of the game, I just sat in notepad and wrote down things that I wanted to add to the game for a few hours, then got to work, I did spend a good while researching 80s-90s movies, games, toys ETC as well as researching and downloading a copy of Windows 95 for testing when making the main menu.
Vapor: Did you have any setbacks when making Sunset Mall?
Cyan: My biggest setback by far, that I have when making games is motivation, I quite easily get bored of making a game, thinking “Maybe I rushed into this too fast and didn’t do enough research.” or “No one will play this, what is the point!”, I somehow managed to put all that aside and finished the game, and it really paid off, so I am hoping I can use this example the next time I feel bored when making a game.
Vapor: Now that the game is coming out September and just around the corner, how do you feel about the end result and what are your thoughts about finally having the game ready for the public to purchase and play?
Cyan: I feel very good, I want to make sure the game is perfect so I am spending a lot of my days bug fixing and reworking certain areas, I am very excited about some of the easter eggs in the game, some of which I think will be very hard and I can’t wait to see people try to solve them.
Vapor: Do you have any future plans for the game now that its complete? Any future updates?
Cyan: As for the future of the game, I think I’m far from done with it, there are so many modes and challenges I want to add, it has a lot more potential and I don’t think I will be done with this game for a long while.
Vapor: As a fun question, what do you love the most about vaporwave? Any favorite artists or bands from the subgenre?
Cyan: I think Whitewoods are my favourite Vaporwave artist, However I do listen to a lot of Vaporwave but I either always forget the artist or I never check.
Vapor: Do you have any last things to say about the game or anything else you would like to share?
Cyan: I don’t really have much to say, just that I hope everyone enjoys it and encourage them to share feedback, and also to look out for future games because I have a lot more projects that I would like to bring to life!
I’ve heard some people call Mall Quest the first Vaporwave game ever made which is a debatable topic but I can agree its a game with a small legacy in the vaporwave community. There are an extremely select few games in the community that can be labeled as vaporwave. Mall Quest and Sunset Mall do that with the music choices, the themes, color scheme, and nostalgic references. Malls are a corner stone of the core genre as mall music and the aesthetics play a massive role in Vaporwave. Its one of the reasons why I admire games like Sunset Mall, its made by someone or a team who has a passion for the genre and wants to present it in the form of a video game, something that we see so little of.
Thank you so much to Cyan for answering all of my questions and I wish you the best of luck on your future projects!
If you would like to give Sunset Mall a try, its available on Steam and on itch.io. The asking price is $2.99 USD.
Link to Game Here:
Itch.io Free Demo