Title: GRIS Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Indie Mode: Single-player Developer: Nomada Studio Publisher: Devolver Digital Platforms: PC, Switch (reviewed) Initial release date: December 13, 2018
Imagine, if you can, how it would feel to lose that which defines you -- your best quality, your security, your very will. What would you do? What could you do? Stripped of your self, what do you have? Do you fight, or do you allow the darkness of doubt, insecurity, and depression to consume you?
Each of us has struggled with our own demons, and Gris is no different. GRIS tells the story of a girl who loses her voice, both physically and metaphorically, and must fight to reclaim that which has been taken from her. This conflict is not one against an outward force, but instead, one from within.
The word 'gris,' when translated from French, means gray -- and that's exactly what happens in the game's beautifully crafted, hand-drawn introduction sequence. When the character loses her voice, she loses everything: her strength, her purpose, her passion; her world turns to gray, void of life and color.
THE TIP AND THE TOP
GRIS is not just a game, but an expression. Nomada Studio has crafted a story which unfolds to reveal a tale of personal growth and survival. As the titular heroine ventures through her shattered reality, she gains new abilities which allow her to break the shackles of fear and return color to her world. On the surface, this can appear to be a simple, yet elegant puzzle-platformer, but the imagery and sound design evoke a deeper sense of empathy and compassion.
The painterly aesthetic of GRIS provides some of the most stunning elements I've seen in a video game. Animations are seamless and fluid. The amount of care and love poured into this game can be seen in every aspect of its design. The accompanying musical score only strengthens the grip that this world has on me, subtly emphasizing the somber moments and creating bursts of adrenaline when the gameplay peaks.
The most interesting aspect of GRIS is the narrative. The game doesn't have a single line of dialogue, so the plot must be interpreted through visual and audio cues, giving each player the opportunity to experience the game differently. This open narrative is easily my favorite quality of the game, because it not only makes you think about other possible interpretations, but also lends itself to a deeper connection between each individual player and the story itself. We all process emotions differently, and GRIS gives players the tools to form their own unique relationships with the game.
THE FLIP AND THE FLOP
I struggled to find a flaw with this game, but if I had the opportunity to improve one thing about GRIS, it would be the way the background and foreground elements contrast. This is honestly an incredibly minor complaint, but there are a few times where it can be difficult to discern whether or not an object in the world is in the same space as Gris, or behind or in front of her. This proved to be problematic when I was briefly stuck on some of the game's puzzles because I was unaware that I could jump onto an object that I assumed was in the background or foreground.
One could argue that this play on depth perception is part of the game's puzzle design, but I can't say for sure. In any case, if that's the only gripe I have about the game, I'd chalk that up to a win for Nomada Studio.
I finished GRIS in about four days, with a total playtime of approximately eight hours; but that doesn't account for the following weeks that I have not only replayed the game, but listened to the soundtrack, and thought about other possible meanings behind the story. This game has influenced me in a way that very few games in my life have, and forgive the pun, but that speaks volumes. GRIS is the first title developed by the incredibly talented team at Nomada Studio, and I, for one, am eager to see where they go from here.