Game: Dull Grey
Genre: Visual Novel
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Xbox One and PS4/5)
Developer|Publisher: Provodnik Games | Sometimes You
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US 10+
Price: US $4.99 | UK £4.49 | EU € 4,99
Release Date: May 5th 2021
Review code used with many thanks to Sometimes You!
“Grey” is how I’m feeling about this visual novel after several playthroughs. It’s neither black nor white but somewhere in between.
It begins very promisingly, though. The minimalist art style of black-and-white tones fits well with the story’s bleak setting in a world governed by a robotic “Progress-program.” On the surface, this tale is about a mother and son—her anxiety over his future profession, and his ambivalence over choosing one.
Profession: Lamplighter or Tallyman?
I think the writing is excellent. But the translation quality often falls short. This is pretty jarring: One moment, paragraphs are smooth and skillfully written; the next moment, sentences sound odd in English. It feels as if two different translators worked on the game, and an English editor did not go over the entire script (as there are plenty of punctuation errors too). Despite this, the original writing shines through, with conflict and intrigue packaged in brisk narration.
It centers on the theme of free will, which is closely related to the gameplay. Every choice you make in the game is a response to the question “What profession will you choose?” This is a very interesting premise and one the game carries out well. The mechanic you must discover to unlock happy endings is a clever one too.
Endings: Happy or Unhappy?
You’re meant to replay the game and uncover multiple endings. Your first playthrough may take about 15 to 20 minutes, with subsequent runs only about 5 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s almost no variation in the story except for the ending. This means the story is only worth reading once or twice. I didn’t fancy tapping through the same old pages to reach the next decision point, but thankfully it’s a short game.
Now, the game promises 11 different “destinies.” I think I’ve uncovered all 11 possibilities, and they seem to boil down to 5 types of endings.
The fifth type of ending is, unfortunately, a little unsatisfactory and immersion-breaking. It’s not that the story itself was unsatisfactory—in fact, I very much enjoyed reading these outcomes and thought the 11 destinies were all nicely written—but rather, the fifth type of ending presented a confusing final page. I wasn’t sure if this final page was truly the end of the game; did I have to press a button to move forward? Apparently not. After fumbling a while, I simply exited to the main menu and chose “Continue” to reload my last chapter and try different choices.
I’m not sure what statement Dull Grey is trying to make with this fifth ending, and I wish I knew because it seems important to the theme of making choices within a rigid system.
Conclusion: Black or White?
I expect promising things in the future from Provodnik Games based on Dull Grey‘s writing and interesting gameplay premise.
But I also hope to see better translation and editing as this can make or break impressions, especially for a visual novel of this brevity. There were jarring moments when the quality of translation dropped significantly.
I appreciate that there are many possible endings, but the most interesting ones ended up more confusing than satisfying. For these reasons, I hovered between rating the game “I Like It” and “Not Sure.” Overall, though, the game holds together well enough.
Verdict: I Like It