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Review: Actual Sunlight

actsun-transitI’m always confounded by the amount of effort and hard work that goes into making stories about slackers. If you look at someone like Seth Rogen’s IMDB page, he’s obviously a hard working person, but his idea of the everyman is an underachieving loser. I got two episodes into Will Arnett’s Flaked before giving up. At the same time, I also don’t like stories focused on people’s working lives. I don’t want to work all day and come home to watch a TV show about someone at their job. So, most police procedurals, legal and medical dramas or stories about anyone working in an office are out. When I saw Actual Sunlight as this month’s free offer for the Playstation Vita from PS Plus, a game about a depressed professional going through his daily life, commuting to his office job, I was skeptical. But this game is heartbreakingly fantastic.

Actual Sunlight is set in Toronto and follows Evan Winter a mid-thirties professional, dealing with depression, living his life alone and working a thankless office job. The game is text heavy, more of an interactive story, and incredibly introspective.

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I’m no expert on depression, but I know it’s not something you snap out of, it’s not something you can just will away. So when the game gives you some options, but those options end up being the same – i.e. – buying a video game with the hope that participating in our consumerist culture will fill the void – you get a feel for the helpless compulsion that depression could give someone.

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The game is about an hour long and I played through it in one sitting. It was incredibly sad and it had the effect that a great story has, it gives you an understanding of what having depression is like. The story’s stayed with me, and I woke up thinking about Evan Winter and his plight, like he was someone I knew in the hour I played Actual Sunlight. It’s a difficult experience to get through and I think it could be triggering if you actually suffer from depression, but I would highly recommend this game.

Actual Sunlight is available on the PSVita, Steam and itch.io

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