GRIS is a game that aims to captivate the player with its beautiful presentation. Play as a young girl making her way through a world that unfolds around her. And yet despite its simplicity in gameplay, GRIS is truly a game to behold.
The gameplay in GRIS is not the game’s standout feature, but that is not its purpose. By not its best feature, we’re not saying that it’s bad. On the contrary, the character’s movements are smooth and the game runs without a hiccup, so you are never pulled away from the experience.
So what we mean by gameplay not being GRIS’ best feature is that it can become quite repetitive. You learn more abilities as you progress, allowing you to solve puzzles in different ways, but your movement is primarily for the purpose of moving the scenery along. So for platforming veterans who get bored when they’re not being challenged, this may not be the game for you. However if you can get past that, GRIS is a deeply enriching experience.
GRIS, in many ways, is a very relaxing game. You can’t die, so you never feel deterred when you have to make a jump that you’re uncertain about. There will be moments when you may be lost, and you may feel like you’ve gone the wrong way, but you haven’t. GRIS is designed to make sure that you’re always going in the right direction and if you are stuck, all you need to do is take your time and explore the direction that the game has led you in. If you ever feel yourself getting frustrated, just simply take a deep breath and keep trying. The worst thing you could do when playing GRIS is to look up a walkthrough, because the game was made to be experienced as a whole, through all of the confusion and accomplishments.
The HD Rumble on the Nintendo Switch version gives fantastic tactile feedback which further engrosses the player. Sliding down a slope and feeling the gravel between your fingers is incredible. However, we did notice a few missed opportunities where the controller oddly remained still.
GRIS has a heart-twisting story which is all presented through artistic metaphors and scenery shifts. The main character loses her voice in the opening cutscene and she must make her way through a wide range of various landscapes. That’s all we’re going to say as anymore would ruin the game’s progression.
The story is quite ambiguous and prefers to show rather than tell. Story beats later on in the game can create more questions than answers, so don’t expect a cut and dry experience. It’s more about the player’s interpretation and the way that one personally responds to what is happening on-screen.
The plot is not about how each event coincides with one another rather it’s more about how they exist independently within the overall experience. When the credits roll, you’ll be able to pinpoint specific moments that had you in awe, in comparison to other artistic video games where the entire game seems to simply blur together.
The finale is utterly breathtaking. Rarely does a game, or any entertainment medium, invoke so much meaning with absolutely no words at all. The art; the colour; the music; the symbolism – it all comes together so wonderfully to create one of the most unique experiences you will ever find.
World / Level Design
Throughout the first 10-15 minutes of the game, the world design is very linear. Like, extremely linear; you’re practically running right for most of it and watching the scenery move across the screen. The slow start may deter some players from carrying on with the game but as you progress, the world opens up to reveal more. And that’s the main pull of GRIS. As you proceed through certain main events, you’ll unlock more color. This color fills in the world, revealing more substance and personality.
As the game becomes more detailed, there are some truly ingenious platforming puzzles that blend exponentially well with the artistic environment. You’ll begin to notice how unlocking colors has a greater impact on the world design and ultimately, the gameplay. However, at other times you’ll be content with simply swimming through deep depths and crossing wide-open landscapes. The variety in its design is truly something to marvel at.
Graphics / Art Direction
The obvious pull of GRIS is its beautiful visual presentation. The sharp outlines, in addition to its bold contrasts, makes the game instantly appealing and draws the player into a world that continues to unfold in many ways.
The watercolor backdrops brings forth a wonderful sense of beauty. They become more detailed as the game progresses, but each and every example will leave you wanting to stop and acknowledge the artistic intentions.
The foreground and background effects blend well with the environments, making a 2D game feel like you’re wrapped inside of a 3D world. We’ve been noticing this more and more with 2D indie games and it would have been a missed opportunity if GRIS didn’t take advantage of this approach.
As previously mentioned, you’ll unlock a new colour after you complete each section. These colours add on to the pre-existing ones, making GRIS feel like an interactive coloring book. The world unfolds around you, so what may feel barren to begin with evolves into beautifully detailed environments.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack goes hand-in-hand with the game’s artistic design, with one complementing the other. You may find at times that the music may take the lead on occasion, with the art direction at other moments, however one would not have the same impact without the other. The developers recommend that the game should be experienced with headphones on, immersing the player in the experience, and we couldn’t agree more.
There are also subtle sound design touches that makes the world feel alive. There’s something oddly satisfying about jumping into the bells to hear a little ding, or walking past creatures in a forest and hearing them squeak. The world interacts with the sound in many ways, making it feel alive with personality.
Final Score: 90%
When somebody asks you how video games can be considered art, show them GRIS. The beautifully detailed environments, the ambient soundtrack and the heart-wrenching story, it all wonderfully comes together in ways that will leave you in awe. As you control the character through what the game has to offer, it creates a new way of looking at art that can only be achieved through the video game medium. Just note that GRIS isn’t a game for everyone. For those who are looking for a mechanically in-depth platformer, I’m afraid you will not find it here.
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