Genre | Adventure, Interactive Fiction, Art
Developer | Will O’Neill
Platforms | PC
In Actual Sunlight, the player controls Evan Winter, a man who lives in Toronto. The player moves through the world by controlling Evan with the arrow keys. The player can interact with objects in order to trigger various screens with text, and the player can also engage in conversation with other characters.
There are five levels in Actual Sunlight, including Evan’s apartment and the street outside Evan’s apartment. The player visits each level multiple times throughout the course of the game. The player is able to choose which items and characters to interact with on each level, although some items or characters must be interacted with to proceed to the next level. When the player is presented with text after interacting with items or during a conversation, they must hit the spacebar to progress to the next piece of text.
Evan has depression and many of his interactions with others in the game reflect this depression. Many of the text screens that the player gains access to by interacting with items describe what Evan is thinking. Often they describe Evan’s situation in a roundabout way, such as an imagined television interview where Evan discusses his life with the television host.
The graphics in Actual Sunlight are a mixture of 2d top down pixel art and hand drawn scenes that accentuate various instances in the game, like a conversation. The music and sounds in Actual Sunlight are sparse. There is a sound the text makes as it shows up on the player’s screen. This sound accentuates the lines of text when they appear. Sometimes the text appears sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. Other times the text broken up so that the words that appear as the player presses the button reveal portions of a sentence at a time, slowing down the appearance of the text and causing the player to read the text in a way that focuses on certain parts more than others.
Much of the text in Actual Sunlight is indirect in that the topic or theme that it is about is not explicitly stated in the text. Rather, the text describes related concepts or instances and allows the player to infer certain things. There are a number of jokes in the game. At one point early in the game one of the pieces of text is a note from the developer of the game that urges the player not to commit suicide after playing the game. That note is not one of the jokes.