December 14, 2018

GRIS - Review

From the moment I first saw Gris, even in stills, I knew it was going to be a gorgeous game, but is the end result a piece of interactive art, or something more impressionistic?

Gris is a game about journey’s, or more specific her own personal journey as she attempts to put her world back together after it fell apart. This is a little bit of both gameplay and analogy, because it happens in the game is meant to represent her fall and then as you progress, the rebuild. As the game begins Gris is just sitting on a hand of stone, which is connected to a giant statue of a women and out of nowhere, it cracks, and she falls, when she does reach land, there is no colour or really anything, the only sense of anything is Gris herself.

The game gives you no direction, there is no cut-scene or monologue to explain anything, no mystical spirit to come and guide you, it is all on you and your ability to navigate a world devoid of everything. As you explore, Gris discovers a small ball of light that is just there, but soon after the world will allow for some more open leveled exploration, rather than just left to right. As you do, more of what makes GRIS the game, appealing comes to light, the game has very few puzzles and those that are mandatory, are not to hard, the optional ones though will provide more of a challenge.

There are no enemies wandering the world, though there is a boss that will emerge at some point, so you are free to explore, without fear of getting stuck or dying. Perhaps the only thing wrong with the game, from a control standpoint, is that Gris does not run, or move very fast at all, which I can agree fits into the world of GRIS, but there are times, where a faster walk would have been very welcome.

It is this approach that made the game easy to enjoy, however the lack of challenge meant that it was over far to quickly, even with a smattering of exploration thrown in for good measure. Perhaps the most surprising part is the boss, whilst not a danger, in that you can’t be killed by it, it still somehow manages to be a threat and with its ability to change shapes, you never know what you are going to experience the next time you see it. Thinking back on it, there was one time where it was easily able to provide a proper scare, which I was not expecting at the time, causing me to jump in fright, but the scare was not the worst part, it was what it represented, and that is the strongest part of GRIS.

The other element is the dress that she wears, is a little magical, in that it has the ability to change its shape and mass, most of which is used to solve some puzzles, but later on it gets the ability to help swim through water like a fish. These powers are fun to use, but apart from the swimming and a great ice puzzle, don’t really have any impact on the world, which is a bit of a shame. 

If there is one thing that GRIS does well is the presentation, both the visuals and audio elements are near perfect, with both parts coming together, to create a world, that even though is light on elements to begin with, still crafts a world that begs to be explored. The art style used was that of Conrad Roset and pausing the game at any time, or snapping a screenshot, will give you an incredible piece of art, that hanging on anyone’s wall would be a welcome thing.

Gris herself has a plain style, but the dress has gumption, with it having far more flare than one would expect. Each single piece of the visuals on their own, is impressive, the watercolour effect creates layers that provide depth and as you add more colour back to the world, start to shape the visuals in some of the most interesting ways.

The other half of the games presentation is the audio and sound effect wise, its pretty barren, there are some sounds, but they are quite tame, very rarely making any sound at all. The other part is the music and it is simply gorgeous, each piece comes together to craft a soundtrack that would not be out of place if it was play by an orchestra.

Even when the game is quiet, taking everything back to the very minimum, the soundtrack is still there, helping provide a sense of calm, which fits in with how Gris is feeling. When the action kicks up a notch, the soundtrack is quite accommodating, providing a wonderful score, that helps elevate the sense of danger and wonder.

GRIS is one of the most stunning games that I had played in years, not only does it offer a story that will impact each player differently, the fact that they manage to convey without words makes it even more impressive. The games length and lack of challenge hold it back a lot, even if the puzzles required slightly more thought, it could have made the achievement of completing the game, more of a prouder achievement. Still, if you want an experience that is like nothing you have had before, you need to give this game a go.

Review copy provided by Devolver Digital

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