Gris Review – An emotional water-coloured journey into digital art

Platforms:
Microsoft WindowsMacNintendo Switch
Released:
December 14, 2018
Publisher:
Devolver Digital
Developer:
Nomada Studio

Review

In a world of competitive indie gems, Gris is the most recent stunning game bridging the gaps between art and gaming. An emotional water-coloured journey, Gris is the work of creative director Conrad Roset (who had never before worked on a game), along with Adrián Cuevas and Roger Mendoza, two friends who together have spent years inside Ubisoft, going through the Montreal and Barcelona studios.

Before I dive into my review I want to take the time to say, every once in a while here at Checkpoint we as reviewers get truly blessed with the games we are able to spend our quality time with. This was most definitely the case with the beautifully artistic Gris. In Gris you’ll play as a hopeful young girl called Gray lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. As you are taken on your journey it soon becomes obvious that Gray’s sadness and sorrow manifests itself in her dress, granting new abilities as she traverses to better navigate her faded reality.

Starting out you will find there is no narrative explicitly described during Gris (apart from the rare tutorials explaining some commands, there’s no text to be seen). As you step into the world you are introduced to young Gray as she is losing her voice, finding herself in a world where colour has disappeared, and all that remains are variations of grey.

Your world feels cold, empty and colourless, and soon you find yourself falling endlessly into darkness. As you fall however you eventually land in a world removed from the one you left behind you.

Gris seems to dive deep into the metaphor that no matter how dark the times, there is always light and colour in the world to be found.

As you control Gray on her journey seeking to return both her voice, as well as colour to this world, you will be transported by the sounds of the Barcelona based Berlinist.

This all ends up being a bit of a literal narrative. Gris seems to dive deep into the metaphor that no matter how dark the times, there is always light and colour in the world to be found. It may sound like a simple relationship, but the execution of this metaphor can be both open and intimate enough to coincide with our own emotions.

As I played through I found myself deeply drawn to Gray and into the beautifully designed world. I connected with Gray, with her voicelessness and her sorrow, for me this was the moment I stopped playing a beautifully crafted indie game and started truly playing digital art.

At its core Gris is a puzzler/platformer. As Gray travels through the levels you will collect mysterious points of light resembling stars. These will orbit around you as you continue on your journey racing off at certain points to to create new pathways made of constellations. Gray can also collect these star points to to unlock new abilities, such as turning into a square block that is large and heavy.

There are four locations for Gray to travel to finding her voice and restore colour to the world. Along the way you’ll be confronted with creatures that help Gray on her journey as well as shadowy bird-like creatures which manifest as larger monsters that threaten to consume her. However one of Gris’ many joys is that it is free from death or danger and the frustrations they can bring. So as deep as this game may take you, hope is never lost, and I think that is truly its hidden secret.

Sadly as much as I love this game, it’s not without fault. The game relies heavily on its lack of a verbal narrative, and with many of the tips regarding the solutions to puzzles being given by sound elements or indicated in the design of the scenarios it’s easy to feel a little lost at times. This is compounded by the fact that as you progress, new movements and colour are coming back into the world and things can get quite arbitrary as to which structures are of use.

Its always darkest before the light...

Gris isn’t an exceptionally long game, averaging around 3-4 hours of gameplay depending, and it wont leave you thinking long for its puzzle challenges. However, this is a game that will leave an impact on you for its beautifully crafted design and narrative. With a blissful soundtrack and delightful mechanics, I have honestly loved my hours spent interacting and bonding with Gray. This is one game I personally recommend everyone enjoy at least once, I myself will likely delve back in sometime soon.