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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Grayout, the follow-up to Blackbar, arrives

I was a big fan of Blackbar, Neven Mrgan and James Moore’s text-based iOS game in which you fill in the redacted words in a story of a totalitarian society. As the story progresses, more key words are redacted, forcing you to use your knowledge of the situation to guess at what’s being communicated.

Blackbar has stuck with me like a great short story would, probably amplified by my participation in it as a player. And the same thing is likely to happen again with Grayout, the $3 sequel, which was just released in the App Store. I’ve been playing Grayout for the past week or so, and it’s excellent.

In Grayout, you’re playing a character named Alaine, who lives in the same problematic society as the one in Blackbar. Alaine has suffered a traumatic event, and has suffered from aphasia as a result. Aphasia, a disorder that makes it difficult to process language, leads to the mechanic of the game. Rather than filling in words, as in Blackbar, in Grayout you have to pick words from a list until you form the right phrase or sentence to move to the next screen.

Despite the changed mechanic, this is vintage Blackbar stuff. It’s entirely driven by text, and at turns blindingly obvious and infuriatingly difficult. More than once I have left the game, feeling there’s absolutely no solution, only to return 10 minutes later and solve the problem immediately. And the frustration you feel as a player sifting through possible word choices and sentence orders is tied in to Alaine’s frustration in being unable to communicate.

I love games like this. It’s not for everyone, but if you want a memorable text-based story/game experience thingy, you should check out Grayout.

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