When does a video game become a piece of art? In my opinion, video games are the highest form of art available. The writing can rival a good book, the graphics can be held up to great paintings and the music, worthy of the finest artists. In my opinion, a video game, when executed well can be art, it can be very good art too, a mixture of many art forms and it is fully interactive. How can it not be considered art?
I first saw Gris when it was revealed a year or so ago and was released on the Nintendo Switch. I nearly caved and bought it on several occasions. I am glad I did not as it is now available on the PlayStation 4 with trophies and some graphical improvements. It looked magnificent, right up my street, beautiful, strange and like nothing that has ever been seen before in the medium.
From the very first scene, I was transported into a watercolour scene of pure beauty and tranquillity. I really could not believe how good it looked on my PS4 Pro, it looked like a painting, it looked like someone's dream, it was magnificent and unlike anything I had laid eyes on before. I wanted to be part of this dream, I wanted to explore and be absorbed by its sheer beauty. I have never taken so many screenshots of a game, I was constantly fascinated by its elegance.
The musical score is on another level, the opening scene made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and it continues throughout the whole game. It perfectly fits the art style, the violins and other classical instruments flow through every scene. They really accentuate the high emotional parts of the story and really hit home on the low parts too. I am a massive fan of video game music and Gris is amazing in this department.
Gameplay-wise, at a very basic level, Gris is a puzzle-platformer but to describe it as that would be unfair. Set against this amazing backdrop and using environmental elements that drip into the scene or unfold into view, the platforming feels fresh and I smiled with every jump, step or glide. The puzzles are also well thought out, never too difficult or irksome and it was very rewarding working them out.
One of the things that I loved about Gris, one of the many things, is that it never holds your hand. There are very few tutorials and you are left to experiment, explore and have fun. Bouncing over leaves, swimming through dark waters and playing with different physical challenges while being enveloped in this fantasy world is such an amazing experience. If you get stuck, it's never an issue as the levels are so beautiful and interesting to look at.
Each stage tasks you with finding stars and completing a constellation to progress. There are other hidden secrets and collectables but the main flow is to collect the stars scattered throughout each stage. The levels are all very free-flowing and will see you traversing back and forth. You also unlock abilities during your playthrough that aid you in your journey. Some areas are gated by collecting a certain amount of stars but its all brilliantly designed. Even though I was never told what to do, I always knew what I had to do. A testament of great game design.
Littering your meanderings through each stage is an all manner of pretty environmental objects, from flora and fauna to buildings, windmills and caves. I cannot stress enough how much I loved each unique level design, how they were connected to each other and the overall design philosophy. Playing Gris is a pure joy, it is a game like no other, everyone should experience it and it is definitely one of my favourite games of the year and maybe even of all time.
I am struggling not to say too much about Gris as this game is one that should be experienced for yourself. I will say this though, Gris is beautiful and it sounds amazing. It made me feel things all the way through my five or so hour play through. I even hung around to get all the achievements and loved every minute. The game also performed so well, no issues on that front at all. It was very smooth and bug-free. I have never played a perfect game but Gris is very close.