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 (256 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
41 of 48 people (85%) found this review helpful
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: December 10, 2014
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.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
41 of 54 people (76%) found this review helpful
2.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 9, 2014
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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21 of 23 people (91%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
1.3 hrs on record
Posted: December 16, 2014
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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15 of 16 people (94%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 29, 2014
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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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.5 hrs on record
Posted: January 2
An interesting perspective on depression, one of few games that feel like you're totally inhabiting another person's mind and thoughts
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: December 17, 2014
Last night I had a dream of romantic spontaneity; of sudden, burning passion, of boundless joy, of the stars aligning and everything I could possibly want -- or at the very least, what I think I want, or maybe what I wanted so badly at one point in time -- simply, inexplicably coming into being. A perfect life made manifest. No inhibition. No limitation. And everything was perfect, or at least the illusion of perfection that people like to cling to, and everything was pure.

And then I woke up before the dream ended because some part of the real me broke down the barriers of that fantasy. And why?

Because there's no way I could be that spontaneous. Because I can't function without my meds. Because I "inherited" this or that from my mom and this or that from my dad and because, unless I lose myself completely, unless I find something that I haven't found yet, I either feel the weight of my existence or its alarming weightlessness, and it's too much either way. Because each and every time I step outside my door I'm crushed by my own thoughts, and suddenly each and every crippling, clawing, gnashing insecurity, doubt, and weakness feels so naked and bare to the world at large that I can only really function if I shut myself off.

But then I feel like I'm not doing it right. Like I'm presenting the world with an image of myself that's not the real me. Like I'm somehow disappointing everyone by not smiling at strangers or not talking enough or not being friendly enough or not giving off the right "vibe" or not keeping in touch with people or really making much of an effort to establish much of anything outside of myself whatsoever.

I tell myself, always, that I need to fix this. That this pill or that pill will make it work. That it will get better. And sometimes it feels like it does, if only for a moment, but it's fleeting.

So I woke up this morning and stared mindlessly at my phone for a few minutes -- found some asinine sense of relief and validation that my latest overfiltered, over hashtagged photo on instagram had gotten more likes from beautiful strangers who may as well not even exist, which makes me feel hopeful if only for a moment because I can't stand the thought of being looked at or scrutinized in "real" life -- and carelessly tossed my phone back to the side. 4 hours of precious sleep, and I knew I wasn't going to get any more, so I woke up and took all my medicine just like I do every single morning so that I don't end up just lying in bed for hours.

Then I sat down at my computer in the dark to play some video game because I knew I needed to distance myself from reality just as I do each and every morning. Opened up my Steam library, stared at 'Actual Sunlight', one of the many games I bought at one point and never got around to playing, and thought to myself...why not?

The hour and a half spent completing this game was like staring into a virtual abyss that encapsulated so many of my own fears. So many of my own doubts, regrets -- regrets I'm too young to have but regrets that are nonetheless very real -- insecurities, and feelings of hopelessness all made poignant and raw and brutally honest.

But within the sadness of this experience lies a deep and profound beauty.

It's so easy to feel alone. It's so, so easy. And no matter how many times or in how many ways you're told that you're not, you still feel alone. Because when it's made so simple, so black and white, it's supposed to seem so easy and the future is made to seem so bright, and maybe other people can switch themselves on and off like that...but when your friend tells you to "have more confidence" you want to make them understand that it just doesn't work that way and when your family is proud of you for a moment that sliver of time seems ultimately fleeting and impermenant in the face of every pain and sadness you feel and when your psychiatrist tells you that you should accept that someone out there wants you and even when you feel wanted everything about everything just seems so hard, so pointless, so false and you end up just watching life pass you by.

For the first time in a long time, this game made me feel like I wasn't alone.

I sat here writing this for the last half hour not knowing who, if anyone, will take the time to read this sprawling mess of words or ultimately even care. But just knowing that a game like this exists is enough. Because all these feelings of hurt and every quiet lament is a testament to the experience of a life that is beautiful even in its darkest moments.

Whether that life is mine...or yours.
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5 of 7 people (71%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
2.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 12, 2014
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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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
0.9 hrs on record
Posted: March 5
This game shows people who cannot understand a mental illness in friends and family. It gives good insight to what its like to be depressed. This is mostly a text based game, though there is little interactions through out. I enjoyed playing and reading along. Worth the buy, I only wish i could of helped evan.
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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
17.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 27, 2014
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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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 30, 2014
As a deppressivem person, I can say that this is the best telling of depression I have ever seen on any medium.

Though, a word of warning: this story basically says that if you are like the main character by the age of 30-ish, all hope is lost. That's simply not true. It may be harder to change your career, especially if you've already begun to climb the ladder, so to speak, but depression is something that can be fought and challeged at every stage in life, not just the begining of adulthood.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 26, 2014
A powerful and moving experience. Very bleak.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.2 hrs on record
Posted: March 17
This game is not what it seems. There is no actual gameplay here, only the sad thoughts and unrealizable dreams of the miserable and lonely fat man who can't change anything because world works the hard way, so only the sharp, cruel and unscrupulous businessmen can achieve success. This game doesn't offer any help, just making the statement that losers won't be happy.
Oh, well, we know it already, don't need to remind us about all this again.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
1.1 hrs on record
Posted: December 1, 2014
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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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
2.2 hrs on record
Posted: January 2
There's not much to Actual Sunlight. You can't win. You can't lose. All you really do is walk around and examine things or talk to people in an extremely linear fashion. But following along this haunting story of Evan Winter is one you won't soon forget.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: January 9
As Actual Sunlight itself iterates, this is not a game; it's a portrait. The premise of Actual Sunlight is to prevent your character from commiting suicide. While, theoretically, it could be brushed off as being slightly pretentious, I don't think it is at all. In fact it's hauntingly well written, which is amplified by how brief it is. It's more of a game about asking questions rather than finding the answers. It does a great job of encapsulating the hopelessnes and despair every single person feels at some point in their life. How long you feel it for is up to you to decide, I guess. It's well priced for what you get out of it.
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3 of 5 people (60%) found this review helpful
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: January 13
I would not recommend it, though Im not saying that this is not a good game.
Let me explain.
I feel like the developers of this game want you to feel what he felt. To realise what he has been through.
I have been in a depression for 2 years, and did recognize a lot.
Though, the game didnt get me. I didnt feel any sadness, depression afterwards. While I feel like that was their goal.
I expected a lot of this game too, which is of course stupid for only 5 euros.
I would indeed recommend it, but make sure you are not sensitive for suicidal thoughts etc.
It is still a good game, and a nice storyline. The storyline just goes too fast, you dont get attached to the main character, which is a must in these games. You dont get to see his good side, which he has.
It's a good game. But not for me.
PLEASE DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME, IF YOU ARE REALLY SENSITIVE AND EASY TO BREAK DOWN.
This game does include suicidal thoughts, it's a psychological experience, and you have to be strong, without getting tackeled down by this game.
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3 of 6 people (50%) found this review helpful
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 17, 2014
This isn't even a game. It's a vacation slideshow of one mans trip to hell. While I can sympathize with a lot of the sentiments expressed by the main character, he really just comes off as more of an entitled jerk, pontificating about all of the (first) worlds societal ills.

Don't have much of a social life, feel you are surrounded by shallow people, and have a meaningless dead end job? Kill yourself. Good job, you beat the game.

Then again, maybe the way you feel is entirely under your control, and no one else is responsible. What I think is that if this guy had put this game out and then did kill himself, then I would have given his ramblings the weight of conviction if nothing else. If not, (and I didn't bother to check) then I file this under 'wallowing in, um, some sort of wallowing area, all dirty and such'. Self loathing, self pity, self whatever, the common thing there is 'self'. It's your life, your choice, and I'll leave you to it.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 17, 2014
I know what it is like suffering this way because I have depression myself. It isn't always as bad as the game displays it but it goes in to great detail as to what life is like with depression. I recommend the game to anyone who has a friend who suffers depression.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
1.2 hrs on record
Posted: December 16, 2014
Minimal interactivity and plays in about an hour. Don't buy if you're concerned about how "game"-y this is. As the game itself says, "This is not a game, it's a portrait." It's a short story with some RPGMaker connective tissue.

That said, I found the writing to be incredibly powerful. It resonates with me, and I appreciate it.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
1.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 30, 2014
Actual sunlight plays as more of an interactive novel than a game of the traditional sense, and thats one thing you have to bear in mind before purchase. Another is that the game is not in any way fun, I can only fecomend it to anyone who knows someone with depression, interested in the illness or the depressed themeslves, and even then, the latter need to be prepared for many triggers and a rough ride. Throgh the lead characters perspective, the story is painfully accurate and holds nothing back to lift the dreadful tone. Its a strong point to consider that this is an utterly depressing and hopeless narrative, but also give the oppurtunity for depressed players to see another perspective of the illness outside of thier own. I cannot recommend this to those who are suicidal, if you are, please seek help through a trusted friend or relative or the suicide prevention line. The game as a whole does a fine job not only telling a story, but also spreading awareness of depressions grim reality, and a testament to videogames as art.

PROS:
heartwrenching narrative
unrelentingly honest
soundtrack is always approriate

CONS:
little interaraction outside story progression.

8/10

*This was written from a reviewing standpoint, but I suffer with depression and this game means a lot to me personally.
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