Developer: Nomada Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: 13 December 2018
Price: $16.99 / £14.49
Reviewed by Phil Myth
It’s not often that a video game can be described as a thing of beauty, much less one devised by an indie studio. Your AAA titles such as Breath of the Wild can earn that moniker through sheer scale, but it takes a special kind of talent for a small developer to produce a game like Gris, which assaults the senses from all angles with its melancholy elegance.
Colour me enthralled
You guide a nameless young girl through a gorgeous, watercolour world as she wrestles with an emotional trauma. Said world begins the game in greyscale as a reflection of the girls’ despair, but as she grows stronger throughout your 3 to 4 hour adventure, more colour is added to the self-encapuslated world - reflecting the growing strength of the games’ protagonist.
In terms of challenge, there’s not really a huge amount to speak of. The game world is split up into a handful of sections, with each new area opening up once a new colour is added. Each hue illuminates new platforms and mechanics that can be used for traversal across each region.
There’s some light puzzle solving to be had, and a couple of well-timed jumps to make, but by and large Gris is a rather sedate affair. There’s no baddies to vanquish, and no perilous spike traps to fall into. However, this lack of impending peril shouldn’t be taken as a negative. The spectacular score complements your movements - and the environment - wonderfully, and as you wander serenely through the world hunting down missing stars, the pedestrian pace of it all allows you to drink in the games’ beauty. Gris therefore, is more of an experience than a challenge. More visual poetry than a game.
That said, it still gets your heart racing from time to time, and pulls at your emotions through it’s sheer aesthetic more than any Call of Duty or Megaman ever has. I genuinely jumped out of my skin at one point, and by the end of the experience I was left with a wistful if slightly sad, smile on my face. And while the game never challenged me to pull off Celeste style hardcore platforming sections, I truly enjoyed guiding the anonymous female at the center of this story through the world.
Hopping across crimson tree-tops, smashing through grey masonary and pirouetting through watery ravines all felt tight and responsive, whilst offering just enough floatiness to complement the game’s dreamy feel.
Some of those actions required the use of certain moves that are unlocked by hunting down the aforementioned stars and returning them to a central location. The level design is simple yet clever, and I rarely struggled to figure out where to go, what to do, or how to progress.
One and done
Those disparate areas are punctuated from time to time with pseudo-boss battles, though again, you’re never in danger of losing a life. Rather, they function almost as chase sequences or larger puzzles, but the shadowy black shape at the heart of them and frantic musical accompaniment add a real sense of urgency to your actions.
There are a few hidden extras to find outside of the main story, and hunting them all down will reward you with an additional secret cutscene. It doesn’t really add a whole lot to the experience, and there’s not really a lot compelling you to play through the game twice, but having an excuse to spend a little extra time in the world and explore a couple of nooks and crannys you may have missed first time around is nice.
Few games are as beautiful and as elegant as Gris. You won’t be challenged to finish it, and the 3 to 4 hour play time seems a shame when the world you inhabit is as gorgeous as this. But, as an experience, it’s stunning. From the way the colours add layers and layers to an otherwise unchanging environment, to the frankly outstanding score accompanying the protagonist’s grief-stricken journey, Gris is a piece of interactive art that excels in everything it sets out to do.
Pros & Cons
+ Stunning art design
+ Beautiful score
+ Emotionally captivating
- Very little challenge
- Short (but very sweet)