LifeisXbox’s Dull Grey Review | Time for a minimalistic yet effective take on a newly released visual novel in Dull Grey. The story takes you on a journey of a son, Kir, and his mother as he grows up and is made to make the tough life-changing decision – should he become a lamplighter or a tallyman? Or is there more he may want to become and explore other opportunities? Finding yourself in a bleak and miserable situation, the ultimate decision will be yours to make but perhaps if you stop to think a little more about your choice then just maybe you’ll find some colour amongst the land you find yourself venturing. Dull Grey has been developed by Provodnik Games and published by Sometimes You to bring a truly unique tale that will have you questioning not only the world you’re surrounded by but the choices you make. Will you choose unusual happiness or predicted sadness? Only time will tell.
VicciVulpix played Dull Grey for two hours on Xbox One S. This game is also available on Xbox Series S/X and Nintendo Switch.
What we liked!
- Monochrome imagery | Black and white imagery with varying shades of grey is something I’ve always found interesting, with its mixture creating positive and negative imagery combined. They can also symbolise identity and this was a crucial part of the narrative in Dull Grey. It does create strange emotional energy too and with this, I was gripped by what was being said perhaps more than I would have in many other visual novels. With colour being absent, you should know that from the beginning of the game, things won’t be all sunshine and rainbows.
- In-depth narrative | As mentioned a little in my previous point, the narrative undoubtedly has emotion attached to it with everything you go through. To me, the story of Dull Grey was quite moving and hard-hitting with the in-depth point of interest of a son having to decide his future career with his mum always having her say on the matter. The story is certainly relatable to many and because of this, people may connect and may be able to understand more about what is happening. Although the game itself is unquestionably short, the impact still manages to be seen and welcomed.
- Interesting setting | Dull grey may appear retro but the setting is far from this so brace yourself for what I’m about to say. The game is placed in a futuristic setting and it was concerning when a huge robotic spider came out of nowhere and decided to start asking me what job I would choose. Yeah, I know, it was surreal and far from what I expected. However, it gave Dull Grey an interesting concept overall that was happily accepted, no matter how strange it may have seemed. The scene also changed throughout, from home to sky lifts to train stations so you were never in the same place for long periods of time and this was a breath of fresh air.
- Minimal audio | There were a handful of places where some sound effects were integrated and I couldn’t decide for myself whether this was necessary. It did enhance what was happening in the game so I think it did make a difference, even if it was only a slight one. The music incorporated into the menu and end of Dull Grey had an almost rough melody to it, giving me a sense of uncertainty. The music between scenes had a calm tone to it that was quite soothing to listen to for a couple of moments. I understand audio can have a large impact on games but Dull Grey perhaps could have worked better, preferably with more or without entirely.
- Unimaginative endings | Right, I’m going to try my best to explain this point without spoiling anything. During Dull Grey, you’re given dialogue options every so often to choose from. These ultimately will lead you to your final decision at the end of the game. Now, I would have liked the process of getting the endings to be a little more complex. Instead, the mechanic of only having x amount of decisions to choose from meant there was very little change on how to get each ending. It meant you only get x amount of playthroughs with almost no difference.
- Minimalistic approach | The style used in Dull Grey was extremely basic and minimal in every way possible. This will probably appeal to some but I don’t think it will appeal to everybody if I’m being completely honest. The art style was retro, using an unusually plain and still style for both backgrounds and the imagery accompanied by the story itself. Personally, I like to see a little more life in visual novels but as the story was very focused and wanted you to see it perhaps from a more serious point of view, the minimal imagery, audio, and options could have been using this to strengthen the narrative meaning.
What we disliked
- Over before it started | When Dull Grey finished, I was extremely shocked that my experience had finished so abruptly. I did not expect that to be the end of what I found to be a powerful story; I thought the story was just getting started only for the end to sadly appear on my screen. It left an empty feeling that I thought was rather unpleasant. I don’t believe there are any games planned to follow Dull Grey in terms of the story and that’s a real shame. The adventure finished before it really began.
- Dialogue is limited | With you having to choose whether to be a Lamplighter or Tallyman came very little change in the story dialogue. The next couple of sentences would be different with the rest of the dialogue having zero change. It made my second run feel quite pointless as 90% of the context was copied from the previous. This caused the replayability to be strongly affected as you could skip through text you had already read, and with this being a large portion, Dull Grey could be completed again too quickly for my liking.
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Hello, I’m Victoria. I’m from the UK and have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. I’ve pretty much mained Xbox since I was ten years old. Although I find it thoroughly enjoyable to not only experience gameplay, I also find comfort in getting lost and engrossed in the online worlds. Another side of my Xbox passion would be achievements. I thrive when I hear the little sound of one popping up on screen and I’m always finding ways to work on my Gamerscore.