When it comes to video games, many titles can stand out from one another in creative ways. We get our action heavy titles that appeal to large audiences and smaller adventures that avid gamers look forward too daily. With Actual Sunlight by WZO Games Inc, it is very hard to put this title in either of those groups.
This game is a haunting experience that takes you through one of the bleakest adventures I have experienced in gaming; living life inside the body of a deeply depressed person. But does this tale cover the subject with respect to create a powerful story? Or is the story too heavy handed with its approach?
This title stars man named Evan who is having a difficult time getting out of bed. He is debating internally the purpose for waking up and getting to work, soon controlling him once he gets out of bed. Through interacting with his apartment, we soon learn a haunting reality; he is a very sick man.
Our player character suffers from depression and we get a bleak outlook on this titles world through his voice. What I enjoyed about this title is how distinct the main character’s voice his, as everything you interact with or person you talk to has a lot of meaning and depth.
Looking at a trash can brings up sour memories about how easy life can be tossed away, picking up a video game at a store has our character talk about how stale and boring games became for him, and talking to two female workers at his job just shows how lonely he is as a person as he likes both of them and cares deeply for one, but never acts on his emotions. He is a lonely person and seeing his downfall across this short experience is heartbreaking.
The dialog and text written here is masterful. I was so engrossed and impressed with how well written the game is, I continually having my eyes glued to my Vita screen and couldn’t put the game down. It is like reading a great novel and you just want to see what happens next.
You also have a seemingly minor ability to select choice, as some actions in the game are optional but the story does something very smart with the core mechanic of choice. At the end of the game, it makes up a set path for your character and you know what he is going to do.
But when given the ability to select a command despite having multiple choices, they all say the same exact thing. That was powerful to me and made me sad I could not change the path for my main character. The story here is one that is heavy, harsh and honest about the world around us. But it is an effective story and one I continually was impressed by.
Design and Lasting Appeal
Actual Sunlight doesn’t offer much in terms of core design, as the games core is of a traditional adventure game but set on auto-pilot. You can interact with everything to get a better understanding of the world but you are always on a set path and no matter what you do, the ending remains the same. It works well but for those looking for a pure adventure game or visual novel might feel disappointed.
One of this games biggest issues is the lack of replay value as I completed the game in one and a half hours. This not much of a problem, considering the story is paced well to the point where you likely would be satisfied once you completed the game but I can see the short length being a problem.
This title is very interesting, as it’s presentation is not impressive on the surface. You have very basic backgrounds and sprites for the adventure maps while the games frequent text portions are show on a black screen (with a loud audible sound playing as each piece of text scrolls across the screen). But what makes the presentation stand out for me is when it decides to be impressive.
Music plays a role here, as the soundtrack helps with setting the mood. It is haunting and when tracks like Break Everything play and the game’s backgrounds get a tint red appearance, it has an impact on the player.
The game also has portraits that pop up at key points across the game and the art is well done. It defines the characters you meet. Overall, Actual Sunlight’s presentation could be better but it is used effectively when the game needs to be impressive visually and musically.
Story – 5 out of 5 / Design & Lasting Appeal – 3 out of 5 / Presentation – 4 out of 5
Actual Sunlight is a title that is very important. The subject matter it covers, deep depression, is something I feel many should learn about and this game implants the gamer inside the minds of someone who is suffering with the illness. With a powerful story using great pacing and masterfully written text alongside some solid presentation, this title is one I couldn’t put down. It’s simple design and poor lasting appeal could turn off gamers but I appreciated this game greatly.
Overall: 4 out of 5
This title was reviewed on the PS Vita platform but you can find it on Steam. The game is part of October 2016’s PlayStation Plus Line-Up, so if you have PlayStation Plus and have read this review, consider downloading the game if you own a PS Vita.