Take a walk on the thin line between hope and despair in Actual Sunlight: A short interactive story about love, depression and the corporation.
User reviews: Very Positive (225 reviews)
Release Date: Apr 3, 2014
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Recommended By Curators

"Showed at PAX East 2014 - This is one of the most powerful interactive stories concerning mental illness available. Excellent narrative design."
Read the full review here.

Reviews

“The Biggest Challenge In This Game Is Preventing Your Character From Committing Suicide”
Kotaku

“Actual Sunlight Is The Hardest Hitting Game About Depression I’ve Ever Played”
Indiestatik

“Actual Sunlight is a brutal depiction of a man’s life self-destructing, and it’s a game whose central character can only find hope in his own death.”
Rock, Paper, Shotgun

About This Game

“I know what you’re thinking: Why keep getting up, day in and day out, even though your life is going nowhere?”

Notorious: Widely considered to be one of the bleakest and best-written experiences in indie gaming, Actual Sunlight challenges you to confront the life of Evan Winter: An overweight, lonely and severely depressed young professional.

Fear the words, not the reading: Presented almost entirely in text, a mixture of sharp observation and pitch black humor captures your interest from provocative beginning to shattering conclusion.

Prepare yourself: Actual Sunlight is a uniquely unforgettable adventure that will etch itself into you as one of the most difficult, haunting and beautiful experiences you have ever had as a gamer.

Key Features


  • An intense, heartbreaking story with themes of video game addiction, unsatisfying work and miserable solitude.
  • Beautiful, original pixel and CG artwork invokes the streets, offices and sanctuaries of Toronto, Canada.
  • Dark and moody original music sets a proper tone for the brutal indifference of real life.

Important Notice


Due to explicit language, Actual Sunlight is not appropriate for players under the age of 18.

It also deals with extremely mature themes, including depression and thoughts of suicide. Similar to other forms of art that tackle these issues, Actual Sunlight can be an extremely powerful emotional experience – before downloading it, please first consider what your reaction to a book, film or piece of music in a similar vein might be.

For immediate updates on the game, please follow Will O'Neill on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/willoneill

System Requirements

    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows 98, XP, Vista, 7
    • Processor: Intel Pentium III 800 MHz
    • Memory: 512 MB RAM
    • Graphics: 1024x768 High Color +
    • DirectX: Version 9.0
    • Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
Helpful customer reviews
17 of 21 people (81%) found this review helpful
2.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 9
It's hard to say a straight forward Yes or No when it comes to Actual Sunlight and reccomending it to other people.

For those that suffer from depression, I can see this game reflecting what they might be thinking and feeling in their darkest moments. There's a raw reality, sadly, in the unavoidable conclusion of this game. Some might appreciate this, but this is definitely a marmite scenario because I'm not sure if you should play this game when you are depressed or at a very low point. Reaffirming what your most negative thoughts are about yourself, does not seem like a wise thing to do and this game does not offer much hope, just affirmation.

The game itself in terms of mechanics is more of an interactive story, whereby you have little sway on the outcome. It's a basic style, done in RPGMaker and the creator has put effort in where he can with little touches and the dialogue. That said this game is dialogue heavy. The narration screen which projects the thoughts of the lead character is what you'll see more than the environment.

This is not a bad game, it's simple, it comes from a powerful and real place, but I think that I would not reccommend it, based on my own conflicts with being stuck in depressive ruts. That's not to say it's awful at all.

I wrote a piece about how it's ok to not play depression based games, when you are depressed or going through stages of depression, which might explain my personal thoughts (though I could say much more).

http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/GlowBear/it-s-ok-not-to-play-depression-games-279830.phtml/
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14 of 17 people (82%) found this review helpful
1.2 hrs on record
Posted: June 29
Not a bad game. Quite depressing though especially since it conveys a very raw set of emotions.

The artwork is nice and I commend the guy who drew all the characters.

Seriously though, consoles are for lamers. Your life went downhill the moment you got rid of your awesome PC.
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9 of 9 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 29
Actual Sunlight is the story of a man named Evan Winter, a man who is coming to terms with depression. It is not a game for the faint of heart, but in its dialogue and dramatic scenes lies a tale of understandable sorrow. The sorrow of never quite knowing one's self or one's worth is a burden that can truly drive one to the brink, and for Evan, the brink is always on his horizon. Dreaming of a better life with a better job, better coworkers, better relationships, and better hobbies eventually cuts into Evan's comprehension of reality and what it means to truly be alive. In this narrative, the player and Evan will discover what life is, its meaning, and what it is to have the power to overcome the obstacles one faces with that knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge, the freedom from the surrounding obstacles, comes at a terrible price; but Evan, trapped in a world of constant fluorescence, truly, honestly, and simply wants the feeling of Actual Sunlight.
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7 of 7 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: July 13
I have mixed feelings about this game. Well, this is not really a game, more like an interactive story. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who's suffering from depression, so yes, beware of trigger. The storyline is very depressing and it will probably make you feel more helpless and hopeless as the story progresses on.

+ Powerful progression of story. It tells you why the character felt what he did and how the world crumbled around him.
+ Gives you an inkling to what suicidal thoughts would do to a person.
+ It will give you some points to ponder.

- Very, very, very text heavy. If you don't like reading, don't buy this game.
- Absolutely no replay value (though I'm unsure why anyone would want to go through the story twice).
- Only an hour plus long (though it certainly feels longer than that).

The developer has a (bleak) message to send through to his audiences. And I think he did a great job at that.
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6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: July 25
This is a truly deep and emotional journey, no sugar-coating or anything, this game is really blunt and honest.
i can truly relate to many things here, i always feel life has passed me, i thought about suicide many times, went through depression many many times. if you ever had doubts, suffered any emotional troubles, went through depression...etc.
then you should give this game a try and i can assure you that you will relate to many things here.

highly recommended of course and hats off to the developer for this strong, brutally honest and deep experience <3
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5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: December 10
Actual Sunlight is an indie title about depression.

This game contains strong triggers towards thoughts and feelings such as suicide and depression. Please make sure you are in a strong mental well-being before playing this game. I have listed all the suicide hotlines that I know of, they are available below.

You will probably never play a game quite like Actual Sunlight.

The story follows a man named Evan Winter, who is struggling with depression. Straight away you sense that he has lost nearly all hope, and is only hanging on because he hopes it will pass.

Evan’s problems are taking their toll. He works for a company he doesn’t respect, with many employees he doesn’t respect, he is overweight and wants to try and change that, but work is dragging him down. He keeps spending money on video-games when he thinks he is wasting his life. Everything in his life seems to have a problem with it, which leaves him with such a depressed mind that no matter how hard he tries to be optimistic, everything seems to be overwhelming to the point where he can’t see past the bad.

Evan has been given advice from people on how to live his life. About how he should “lighten up,” or how he should look at the world. Things that many depressed people have been told. But it isn’t helping them, because it is a mental issue, so merely changing your perspective on something won’t help because the thing you need to change isn’t an easy issue to fix. Evan will laugh it off or make self-deprecating jokes, or merely try to deny it. But underneath is that little bit of honesty that they really hope you hear, because they are too scared to say it directly.

Actual Sunlight was made with RPGMaker by one man, Will O’Neill. But behind it’s simple graphics is an incredibly powerful story.

This “game” is brutally honest with it’s writing, it’s like being in the head-space of someone or reading their diary, it is SO incredibly personal. But I do think it contains a story that needs to be played by people to truly understand what it is like, at least to the best possible ability. It isn’t a game I would recommend to someone going through depression unless they feel they can 100% handle it. But I do think anyone with a family member, friend or colleague that might have depression, should play this game, so they can truly understand their loved one.

This game isn’t one I can score, because it would be like trying to score someone’s life, someone’s thoughts, someone’s journey, it would almost invalidate everything I have said. But if you have a loved one suffering through depression, take the hour and a half to finish this game and try to understand what they must be going through. It’s a rough journey, but you should be by their side to the best of your ability.

If you need help, please talk to someone or contact your country’s suicide hotline below.

_______________

SUICIDE HOTLINES
Albania: 127
Argentina: (54-11) 4758-2554
Australia: 13 11 14
Austria: 142
Barbados: (246) 4299999
Belgium: 106
Botswana: 3911270
Brazil: +55 51 211 2888
Canada - Greater Vancouver: 604-872-3311
Canada - Toll free-Howe Sound/Sunshine Coast: 18666613311
Canada - TTY: 1-866-872-0113
Canada - BC-wide: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
China: 0800-810-1117
China (Mobile/IP/extension users): 010-8295-1332
Croatia: (01) 4833-888
Cyprus: +357 77 77 72 67
Denmark: +45 70 201 201
Estonia (1): 126
Estonia (2): 127
Estonia (3): 646 6666
Fiji (1): 679 670565
Fiji (2): 679 674364
Finland: 01019-0071
France: (+33) (0)9 51 11 61 30
Germany (1): 0800 1110 111
Germany (2): 0800 1110 222
Germany (youth): 0800 1110 333
Ghana: 233 244 846 701
Greece: (0) 30 210 34 17 164
Hungary: (46) 323 888
India: 2549 7777
Ireland (1): +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90
Ireland (2): +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92
Ireland (3): 1850 60 90 90
Ireland (4): 1850 60 90 91
Israel: 1201
Italy: 199 284 284
Japan (1): 03 5774 0992
Japan (2): 03 3498 0231
Kenya: +254 20 3000378/2051323
Liberia: 06534308
Lithuania: 8-800 2 8888
Malaysia (1): (063) 92850039
Malaysia (2): (063) 92850279
Malaysia (3): (063) 92850049
Malta: 179
Mauritius: (230) 800 93 93
Namibia: (09264) 61-232-221
Netherlands: 0900-0767
New Zealand (1): (09) 522 2999
New Zealand (2): 0800 111 777
Norway: +47 815 33 300
Papua New Guinea: 675 326 0011
Philippines: 02 -896 - 9191
Poland (1): +48 527 00 00
Poland (2): +48 89 92 88
Portugal: (808) 200 204
Samoa: 32000
Serbia: 32000
Singapore: 1800- 221 4444
South Africa: 0861 322 322
Sweden (1): 020 22 00 60
Sweden (2): 020 22 00 70
Switzerland: 143
Thailand: (02) 713-6793
Ukraine: 058
United Kingdom (1): 08457 909090
United Kingdom (2): +44 1603 611311
United Kingdom (3): +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92
United Kingdom (4): 1850 60 90 90
United Kingdom (5): 1850 60 90 91
United States of America: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Zimbabwe (1): (263) 09 65000
Zimbabwe (2): 0800 9102

Disclaimer: This review was written gradually over 6 or so months, if others have voiced their opinions that have been voiced similar to mine over that time that is by coincidence.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 12
I played this game directly after Depression Quest because from what I read, they're very similar. Actual Sunlight does have more interaction involved though.

This game follows the thoughts of a man named Evan Winters, who clearly suffers from depression. He talks about things that a lot of us think about. He's stuck in a rut and working at a job he hates. He makes the excellent point that society is constantly telling us that our lives are what we make it, but that few bring up how there's lack of opportunity to actually change things. Being stuck in this situation, he succumbs to dark, sad thoughts.

Like Depression Quest, it is strongly advised that a person with severe depression and/or suicidal thoughts not play this game. However, it can offer a different perspective for those who wish to understand what it's like.

Issues with the game: It's too short.
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
5.1 hrs on record
Posted: June 30
Interesting game. I'm not quite sure I will ever relate to that complete hopelessness that ends with suicide, but maybe the point of the game isnt for you to relate, but rather to have a better understanding for what some people feel? Dunno. I do know that people feel the weight of society heavily, and it does affect some people like this.
Anyway, I thought the disclaimers at the beginning were appropriate, I thought the writing was pretty stellar, and althoguh the subject matter is heavy and a bit heavy handed, I think it was effective at, at the very least, bringing about some degree of contemplation from the people who play it. Plus, there was humor interjected in the writing, sardonic as it was.

Took about an hour to complete, so it isnt so much of a time commitment.
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5 of 7 people (71%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: July 20
It's depressive and is not for everyone. If you don't know what depression is, don't like the darker mature themes, probably you will not like and understand this game.
It has no gameplay, only text and some pictures, all you need to do is move a bit, press a button and read the text and think about what you read and about yourself, your life, the world, everything. It's only ~2 hours long but it's worth playing. We need more similar games.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: July 11
The author describes this game (in the game) as not being a game, but a portrait. That is what it is - a snapshot, a short story describing someone's pain in a way that is haunting and resonant with anyone who's dealt with depression.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.3 hrs on record
Posted: December 16
I look at Evan Winter, the main character of Actual Sunlight, and that Evan Winter is distinctively me.

Well, not exactly me. I'm not in my late 20s/early 30s. I'm not working a job I neither love nor care for. I'm a college kid from China studing economics here in the States. Oh, and I do cook pretty well, and my obsession with precisely following Ikea's assembly instructions proved to be a bit overwhelming to the few friends I have.

Other than that, it's pretty close. I'm in an alien country, spending money I don't have learning stuff I neither love nor am good at, getting by with passing grades, lying to my parents that everything's fine so they wouldn't completely lose faith in me and their decision of funding my study, and of course, escaping into videogames. I live with four roommates under the same roof who each lives their own lives and barely social at all. I've no idea if I would ever find a job, or even complete this degree. I've gained 40 pounds since I came here, and the mirror image of Evan is not far from myself. Hell, I even have a similar "relationship" like Evan and Tori with my ex, my first date, who I broke up with 4 years ago. And for the past four years, I've been living with my broken promise, which I never told her, that I would make a man out of myself one day and finally face her with confidence, along with dozens of other promises I could not keep.

I've seen my university's counseling service precisely once.

I'm pretty sure I just failed a class I have to pass in order to proceed to a dozen of courses to complete my degree.

I've been keeping a sharp-tipped fruit knife within my arm's reach for the past three days.

I woke up early this morning after 5 hours of medically-enhanced sleep, and I run into Kotaku UK's article "How Video Games Can Help With Depression", in which Actual Sunlight was mentioned. I found a let's-play on YouTube, and two minutes into it, I knew this is a game I need right ♥♥♥♥ing now. Only $5. It's not like I haven't been wasting hundreds of dollars on games already.

Playing through the game took me 1.5 hours. It was 1.5 hours of storming emotions, mixed with pre-coffee, early-morning drowsiness. I completely understood every single word, and every single pulse behind those words. It is the life I've been living for the past four years.

And it feels good to know there're people out there. People out there who really understands.

And, although the game's ending *minor spoiler* is not exactly happy, I feel strangely motivated. It pinned down every negative emotion that's been bombarding me constantly, like scalpels cutting around a gulping tumor, summarizing everything I want to be rid of.

But mostly, it's just nice to know that there're people out there who understands.

And, coming back to it, it wets my eyes that the author put down that one line:

"Don't you ♥♥♥♥ing dare."

So I won't. I'm gonna put up one more fight. I've made choices and I had my consequences, but there's still chance. I'm still depressed, but now I actually feel that I'm not alone, and there are those out there who are still putting up there own fights, and there's no excuses for me to give up my own.

===

I know this is not technically a review, but I'd say this reviews the game better than any actual review and accurately reflects what the player is signing up for.


BTW, I just realized that I unintentionally threw that knife away along with a bunch of litter in a cake box.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: August 7
This game definitely put me in quite a depressing mood, however it was for a good cause. This game touches ALL players whether they're aware of depression or not. There isn't much gameplay involved in this, which was annoying for me as I would have preferred to move around myself more rather ran read essays. Though, the essays are really well written extracts expressing Evan's depression, something that if you bother to read properly, will impact on you dramatically. The game itself is short and to the point, you're offered to go to the roof whenever you're near the lift (elevator). Evan lives a miserable life of boredom and disappointment, he's stuck in a dead-end job and has no friends nor love. With this in mind, when he has the opportunity for love, he dismisses it, he hates himself. I would say that this game isn't worth what you pay for, however with the 50% discount going around, £2 is about equal value to what this game produces. You can see that a lot of time and effort was put into the story behind this game, I recommend it if this is what you're looking for in a game!
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4 of 6 people (67%) found this review helpful
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: July 12
Go to the roof and jump off the building.
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11 of 20 people (55%) found this review helpful
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: August 21
To be honest, I find it difficult to deny this project (it's not a game in any modern-day sense of the word) a healthy recommendation. But after "playing" it for over an hour, I feel like I can't do otherwise. Actual Sunlight zooms in on the themes of depression, suicide and the feelings of loneliness and uselessness in a very, very direct way, hitting one straight in the face time after time after time. It does so alsmost exclusively by using text, text one has to scroll through by hitting enter again and again and again. There's not much more "gameplay" except for walking around your depressive character in a generic environment and talking to objects and people. This triggers ... more text ofcourse. Whole the time, one gets confronted with ideas and opinions about how bad/gross modern society is to its core.

Now I don't have a problem with text-based games as such - back in the 1980's several excellent games were text-based -, but the actual texts used here, and the way the different themes are handled, is really too grim and too "in-your-face" for me. Having experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide quite recently, I could hardly bear playing this. Themes like these presented in such a direct way as here, should imo be the subject of therapy-sessions in a well cared-for, safe environment. To punch this through one's throat as it's being done here, may help in making a point, but it's not healthy for the ones playing or rather reading it.... So be careful, I guess, and try this one at your own risk.

Gameplay: 10/30
Graphics: 5/20
Sound: 5/10
Longelivety: 4/10
Technical/stability: 7/10
Personal appreciation: 5/10 (it does take some courage to make a "game" like this)

Overall: 36/100
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.0 hrs on record
Posted: June 28
Thank you.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.1 hrs on record
Posted: December 1
This game was painfully realistic and a bit difficult to get through. Not because of poor gameplay or plot, but because of the content. Actual Sunlight is about dealing with depression in a very realistic manner. Things are not sugarcoated or made to be politically correct. The protagonist isn't someone to sympathise with easily, but at the same time, you, the player, do feel and understand where he is coming from. The gameplay isn't very difficult as it is mostly clicking and interacting with the items in our protagonist's daily life, and noting his comments regarding such things. So in a sense, I suppose this will fall under the category of an interactive story. In short, this is an excellent game which tackles a very difficult subject.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.6 hrs on record
Posted: August 11
It's interesting and eye opening to get into another persons head so as to see how major depression can cripple and corrupt ones whole life. Anyone interested in psyche and good writing should pick this one up. More of an interactive novel than a game.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.2 hrs on record
Posted: August 3
This game really spoke to me through the immersive Rpgmaker world. Better than HL2. Gabe N says means HL3 confirmed. take some hot showers you fagtots. ily



-KYS
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.3 hrs on record
Posted: July 3
This game makes me feel like I am worthless, stupid, fat, and lonley guy.

That said I really appreciate the game. It handled the topic of depression in a more mature and very unique way than most games do. Depression is something that stays with you forever and everyone has their own way of handeling/living with it. To cope some people eat, drink, take medication, or play games. Others have also taken a more permenant route... Seeing how this game tackles a subject that is different from one person to the next is something I admire the creator for doing. Going on this journey with the the character made me feel very self aware of the surroundings I live in and the life style I live. This game is not some depression cure, but for me it did bring some thought and feelings, good or bad, that a game has not done in this format ever. The game is short but I was not looking for a shooter or rts game. I was interested in the topic and the format it was given and the creator did a fine job doing so.

10/10
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
17.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 27
This is one of those games that's a book. It's an hour and a bit story about depression.

I found the narrative smart, relatable, and as a consequence rather painful to read. It's a compelling and beautiful telling that deserves to read.
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