Grayout is a prequel to the Gold Award-winning Blackbar. It's set in the same dystopia, and has a similar focus on the power of language and the machinations of control.
Rather than focusing on censorship, Grayout is about language disorders. In this case, forcibly applied language disorders. It's about torture, power, and freedom. About friendship and love in the face of a totalitarian regime.
And while it does have a few problems, it's an important, well written exploration of themes and ideas that most video games rarely go anywhere near.
So what do you actually do?
The game tells the story of a woman who wakes up in a hospital. She's suffering from a language disorder, and you need to put her sentences together for her.
Each page of the story gives you a word cloud, and you need to construct a response by finding the right words and putting them in the right order.
There's no hand-holding, no hints except those contained in the text. It can be a frustrating experience, but as the story unfolds you realise that that's the point.
I don't want to spoil anything here, because Grayout is a game that deserves to be played with as fresh as you can possibly manage.
It's all story then?
Absolutely. The gameplay is all in the words. The sentences you're creating start off pretty simply, but as things progress and your words become mangled they get increasingly troublesome.
There are parts of the story that I bashed my head against for hours, throwing together combinations of words to try and find the right one.
And yes, it can be infuriating. But being incapable of forming sentences would be infuriating, and it fits in with the themes that run through every aspect of the game.
It's a problem though. And it means there will be people who give in rather than persevere, which is a massive shame.
Would you recommend it?
I absolutely would. I think Grayout might be one of the most essential iOS games of the year. It's up there with This War of Mine in terms of sheer power, and it proves just how interesting and vital gaming as a medium can be.
There are bits that you will hate, and you will hate them with a passion until you manage to solve them. But that hatred, that inability to proceed, is core to the appeal of the game.
It's a tough sell, I understand that, but Grayout is as essential as its predecessor. It challenges the way we think about games, about language, and about coercion. And you should play it.