Sometimes you’ll go into a video game not knowing what to expect, but give it time, and you may find the hidden jewel underneath. The 2018 game Gris by Spanish developer Nomada Studio, and published by Devolver Digital, is one of those games that will stand out in your mind as a uniquely crafted game full of beauty and emotional depth.
The game introduces the player to a young girl named Gris who is dealing with some kind of emotional trauma you have to help her navigate through. The game gradually unlocks different abilities—high jumps, transforming into a square, swimming, or singing—which will help you overcome obstacles and light puzzles in an ever changing environment Gris finds herself in.
What struck me about Gris is the sense of mystery hanging over the entire game. Aside from understanding early on that the game is about the character’s internal world and the despair she’s feeling, I couldn’t get over the why behind it. Did she lose someone she cared about? How long has she been sitting with her grief and depression?
The game also stands out with its gorgeously drawn graphics and its highly emotional musical score. Every single level or cutscene feels like a watercolor sketchbook come to life. The art in Gris is outstanding, and coupled with the game’s score composed by Berlinist, makes it a game that’s almost impossible to put down because you want to sit with it a little longer.
As you complete each level you obtain red, yellow, blue, and green, which begins to add more color to the character’s gray world you start the game off with. Finding these colors feels like adding to a blank canvas that got more vivid and beautiful as you continue Gris. Separately, you can also find mementos scattered throughout the levels. These are optional, of course, but from what I read online finding all the mementos unlocks an extra scene that explains why the girl is feeling what she’s feeling. I didn’t find all the mementos to get the extra scene, but finishing the entire game opens up the chapters option in the main menu to make it easier to hunt for the mementos you missed the first time around.
Gris is a platform-adventure game, which means playing it can be a bit of a challenge but not overly frustrating compared to other platformers. I’ve mentioned many times on the blog how bad I am at platformers and tend to steer clear of them as much as possible. Hearing that the game is a platformer when it came out at the time automatically eliminated Gris as a possible game to play in the future. It took my older sister giving me Gris as a birthday present for the Nintendo Switch this past April to make me give this game a chance. And I’m really glad it worked out this way.
While I did have a rough go with some sections of the levels, oftentimes, after putting the game away for a bit and returning to it later, I eventually succeeded where I got a little stuck. By the time I reached the end of the game it was wholly satisfying to realize I managed it on my own. And that’s exactly the point. The developers at Nomada Studio designed the game in a way that no puzzle would be impossible to solve by your second or third try. I appreciated this approach immensely because it made the platformer a bit more accessible and better to play. Unlike another platformer video game Ori and the Blind Forest, also a gift my sister gave me last year, has left me hopelessly stuck on one part that I can’t seem to find my way around.
Gris is an incredible video game that will leave players with a long-lasting impression, and is not one to be missed if you enjoy platformers with a metaphorical take on serious subject matters, like grief and depression.
Reviewer Rating: 10/10