I struggled for a while with the idea of writing a quickplay for this game. The repercussions of Actual Sunlight are far too heavy to be rolled into a swift review, and to explain the story too deeply would be to spoil the emotional aspect of the game for those yet to play. However, having waited a few days, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and I feel it deserves to be witnessed by as large an audience possible, so here goes…
Written and developed by Will O’Niell, Actual Sunlight is a short interactive story that places us in the role of Evan Winter, a young man suffering through the many stresses and strains of modern life in Toronto, heading inexorably toward a destiny that he neither wants nor knows how to avoid.
Throughout the game we witness Evan’s reactions to his co-workers, family and strangers, as he moves, adrift and alone through a world that he wants to, but cannot connect with. The game deals with themes of depression and isolation, but never overwhelms as the writing is restrained, concise and to the point. It touches upon experiences and problems that many of us can relate to in our daily lives, and for that reason, Evan is neither pathetic nor out of reach, but human; disenfranchised, alone, selfish, and incapable of reaching out even when he needs help the most.
It is the first game in a long time that has made me stop and think after finishing it, reluctant to jump into another game for fear of dirtying the experience. Even the Steam achievement that pops at the end feels out of place, as it serves as a harsh wake-up call after the simple poetry of the story.
No doubt Actual Sunlight will have detractors, in the same way that Gone Home and To The Moon had theirs; Many people will be unable to overlook the basic art style (the ‘game’ is made with RPG Maker, but the cutscenes are beautifully drawn), the personal themes or the brevity (my playthrough clocked in at just over an hour). However, for people who are interested in quality rather than content, well written, realistic characters instead of tropes and an emotional punch that lasts well after the game finishes, I would wholeheartedly recommend it, especially as it costs less than the stiff drink you’ll need after finishing it.