You may know that excitable feeling you get when you see a game that you know will just be wonderful. Whether it’s the artwork, the music, the gameplay or the whole package, you really look forward to getting your hands on it and playing. GRIS has been one of these games that I have had this feeling for as the developers unveiled more snippets for the upcoming release. We were fortunate enough to receive a review copy for Nintendo Switch and are pleased to share our thoughts with you. The game is developed by Nomada Studios and published by Devolver Digital and is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Gris is a young girl who is trapped in a faded reality, devoid of colour, as she deals with a painful experience in her life. Gris traverses her world and her dress grants her new abilities to help her navigate her way through such as making it a block to smash through weakened floors and she will find new paths and abilities throughout the experience.
The first thing to say is it is a complete package where everything comes together to make the game so beautiful and a joy to play. It is a game of puzzles and some platforming sequences but also offers optional challenges as the world becomes more accessible. There is no text, no speech, no real direction. Gris is as lost as you are in her world and sometimes the game will cut off certain pathways which I assume means you aren’t ready to go that way yet but other than that, you can explore with Gris and try to catch more stars and obtain new abilities. It is a game that reminds me of other titles such as Journey, Inside (which I haven’t actually managed to play yet so watch this space) and Dear Esther but also remains incredibly unique in its delivery and play style. There’s no real danger in the game, even though at times you do worry during particular sequences, there is no death or fear, it is just a serene experience.
As you begin, all colour in Gris’ world is lost. It’s barren, stark and striking as you can still work out the kind of landscape she is in but it just looks so wrong. The music that accompanies the early parts of the journey echos this loss but as Gris moves forward and starts to get those colours back, not only does the world begin to take more shape around you but the music also begins to build up. The score works so well with the game play remaining calm and incidental almost during moments of traversal but as soon as the pace picks up during the platforming sequences the music explodes with the action and is really a wonderful accompaniment. The game really is just beautiful… and I feel I will be saying that a lot whenever someone asks me my initial thoughts on the game as a whole. The landscapes, the water, the little details are all stunning and as more colour and light begins to come back to this world, it just gets even better.
The dress Gris wears holds her abilities with my favorite still being her swimming ability. Trust me, it’s glorious and I could have spent hours just swimming around enjoying myself. As you discover and acquire these abilities you will feel more pathways opening up to you enabling you to access areas you couldn’t have before. The puzzles do require you to use the new found abilities to move forward and these aren’t overly complicated. Some require timing, some a little more skill or thought but they are not meant to be too difficult being described as ‘light’ puzzles which is a fair description of their difficulty level. There were a couple of times that I would fall down or spend a little bit of time trying to work something out and I felt considerably silly when I would finally work it out as it wasn’t particularly difficult in the first place. As the controls are simple with ‘heavy’ and ‘jump’ being the only buttons you will use along with directional inputs, it makes it all the more easy to deal with these puzzles.
For anyone who has dealt with a painful experience, whatever it may be, you’ll know how much it can affect your entire world. Nothing tastes right, nothing smells right, nothing looks or feels right. You almost can’t hear anything around you or speak. I think this is what make GRIS a moving, emotional narrative experience. I found statues along my journey that represented stages of Gris’ pain and it struck a chord but in such a way that it didn’t evoke feelings of sadness but more relief because it is possible to go through these experiences and come out the other side. Similarly to Journey, the game is cathartic in many ways. It’s not only an adventure but it’s a release. This may not be the same for everyone of course, but it’s how I felt when I played and maybe it will for you too.
I don’t want to spoil too much more about this game. What I would like is for you to play it and experience it for yourself. It really is a stunning game and will hopefully be an enjoyable journey for all who play. The art style, the simplicity of the controls, the music and narrative make it easy to get lost in. My only small gripe is saving as the game will automatically save at some points and you can locate some save points along the way, however if you can’t find these and you have an unexpected shut down, you could lose some of your progress. It’s not a major issue as it’s not as though it’s a pain for you to play again but it is the only thing that I came across that might be an issue for some people. GRIS is certainly the perfect title for the Switch and will be equally as enjoyable on the PC. I do hope that PS4 and XBOX players will get a version soon. I think GRIS could be one of the most beautiful games I have ever played and it really could be up there with one of my games of 2018.