Nintendo SwitchAlso available on PC
Gris has been making waves ever since it was announced and it’s easy to see why just by looking at the art style. Rather than going for pixel-art as many indie games do – not that this is bad, pixel-art is great – Gris instead opts for a beautiful graphical style that looks like a painting in motion. The question with this kind of game is always the same though; will it play as good as it looks?
Well while that is the biggest question let’s talk about the story first, it all ties in together so it’s important to cover it. Gris is the story of a girl called Gris – simple enough so far – she is lost inside her own head. Her world is grey and apathetic, completely devoid of life or feeling, just empty and blank. Everything about her own internal struggle is reflected in the world around you, the world is crumbling at first. Gris is broken, as such the world around her is in disrepair, only by getting through this can anything start to mend.
You can't fix anything at first though, the only interaction with the world is destruction. Only by breaking these things down can you begin to build yourself back up. As you progress, you’ll restore colour to the world, things will start to repair themselves. Even the stars in the sky will start to come back, your presence is the only thing that can save this inner world. Watching the world become increasingly colourful, more full of life, and warmer is genuinely moving, you can expect a pretty strong reaction if you’ve ever been through something similar.
The gameplay isn’t the star of the show, more of a vehicle for the story and the beautiful visuals and sound design. The game is a puzzle-platformer at its core. The platforming feels good for the most part, there are some particularly enjoyable parts where you get to play round with gravity that really standout. The puzzles are generally more about exploring than actually being brain teasers, but some of them will require you to think outside of the box a little too.
Things get a little more heated when you come across a representation of your own inner-demons. The serenity that is present throughout the game is broken at these points, almost like little boss fights, though no actual combat occurs. These are few and fair between in the four-hour long story but change the pace enough to really throw you off and give a genuine feeling of peril. The art-style for them even seems different; while most of the game has your wandering through a world of watercolours, this demon is all ink, a mess of darkness that consumes everything. It is a beautiful and haunting juxtaposition that makes it immensely impactful.
The sound design matches the visuals perfectly. Tiny sounds punctuate your adventure, with huge swells of music rising and falling perfectly in time with the journey itself. The earliest example of this is very early on, when you are making your way through a desert, the music is calm and almost empty, matching the desert perfectly. This is abruptly interrupted by a slew of sandstorms, these come alongside huge orchestral swathes of music, almost violently breaking the calmness that lies before and after each one.
Gris is an artsy game, I have played a lot of them this year, but none of them are like this. No other game this year has done so much in such a short time, no other game has managed to look like this in motion and match it with such a stunning soundtrack. Gris isn’t perfect - there are a few points where you’ll be frustrated with an obtuse puzzle – but it is an incredible experience and a must play for anyone that enjoys gaming for more than pure action. Gris is art in motion, it is an absolute pleasure to behold and is another great addition to the medium. Honestly, I could say a lot more about this game, but even spoiling the abilities you unlock or the way the world comes back together feels as though it would detract from the experience. Just go and play it.