Despite the release of several AAA games during the holiday season, Gris managed to capture my attention and admiration, solely through its impeccably striking visual identity.
Gris is a relaxing, exploratory platformer and the first title out of Nomada Studio, a Barcelona based development house. Readers interested in the premise of Gris should know that the title deliberately forgoes traditional forms of exposition, instead relying on subtle story beats through beautifully realized, real-time cutscenes and set pieces. The base premise of Gris tells the story of personal loss, as players take on the role of the titular Gris, a young girl who awakens afterfalling from grace, in a world devoid of colour.
As the young woman, players are tasked with restoring colour to her world, through exploration and light puzzle platforming.Gris isn’t a particularly difficultgame, rather the game feels intentionally easy, with any pangs of challenge reserved exclusively for the satisfaction earned from overcoming them.
Gameplay primarily consists of finding nodes of light that are hidden throughout the metroidvania structured game world. The nodes of light help unlock obstructions in the world, including everything from waking a dormant sea turtle that helps player traverse the ocean floor, to the simple formation of a constellation, masquerading as an impromptu bridge between platforms.
The opening sequence of Gris feature muted and haunting depictions of what I assume to be the inner turmoil of the main character brought to life, or rather, abruptly awoken in a barren landscape. A world that is mostly empty, sans for the occasional sprinkling of dilapidated ruins and structures that help alleviate the feeling of uneasiness and isolation. Eventually, climbing the facade of a large building and reacquainting with a statue of a woman from earlier in the game, players rediscover their first colour, that being red.
The way Gris introduces colour to the game world is truly spectacular — the background which is represented by a milky white paper texture imparts it with a real sense of tactility while additionally making the girl along with anything else in the foreground pop and come to life. This is especially true for when colour is added, similar to the paper background, colour is appropriately implemented with a sense of realism and weight.
Vibrant explosions of watercolour erupt from the young woman’s dress, bleeding and saturating the world in brilliant pastoral waves of pure eye candy. Amazingly, this crescendo of colour is maintained throughout the 3 or 4 hours I spent with the game. In fact, I never felt unrewarded in exploring the world of Gris, despite the game offering little in the means of collectables or extras. In other words, the simple joy of exploring the world always felt like the best incentive. One thing Gris does offer, however, is a handful of abilities that can be earned as players progress through the title.
It should be noted that none of these abilities ( which include things such as a ground pound jump, the ability to swim and an extended jump) never significantly alter gameplay which when coupled with a lack of any enemy encounters, can make Gris come off feeling like a simple game, however, this simplicity feels deliberate, in that I believe Nomada wanted to deliver a game that was first and foremost a relaxing experience for both experienced players and newcomers alike.
This relaxed and tranquil feeling also translates to Gris‘s soundtrack. The title features soothing and often times sombre sounding music that perfectly splices together percussion riffs with more atmospheric sound effects such as the player character walking through a forest, to the sounds of trickling rain. The music is so relaxing that I, at one point found myself just leaving the game on in the background while I wrote this review.
The true beauty in Gris lies in the feeling of discovery Nomada has so eloquently weaved into the fabric of the game. Exploring the world of Gris as the lone wanderer feels like watching lost snippets of something like Nausicaä of the Valley oft he Wind or even Fantastic Planet. The game looks striking on the Nintendo Switch‘s 6” screen but really flourishes when docked, simply due to being able to appreciate the finer details on a larger format screen.
Controls in Gris feel solid with most actions requiring only the press of one button along with the directional pad or stick, occasionally requiring an additional button press for environmental based challenges. Due to the free-flowing and fluid nature of the movement that comes with wearing a dress, I actually preferred playing Gris with the use of the left stick rather than the d-pad of the pro controller (or my modified Joy-Cons), meaning players should be able to enjoy the title regardless of how they prefer to play their switch.
It’s a shame Gris releases during the holiday season as I fear the title may be over shadowed by other heavy hitting games. Gris is a must play for fans of the Metroidvania or adventure genre, relaxing games, or basically anything made by Thatgamecompy or Playdead.