GRIS

January 24, 2020
Developer: Nomada Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch

While it's really a basic game on the surface—and not the type I'd normally enjoy playing through (honestly, I thought it would just be a walking simulator)—I felt Gris (stylized as GRIS) was worth a brief mention. It's a basic 2D puzzle/platformer with some absolutely gorgeous visuals and music. You play as a girl who has lost her voice. Seemingly, all the color in the world has disappeared along with it. The brief 1-3 hour journey consists of small, simple puzzles and collecting a few power-ups, such as the ability to turn into a block, double jump & float in the air, or swim. There are bonus collectibles on occasion which require slightly more thought to obtain. Ultimately, you are trying to return color to the world and find your lost voice.

While the game itself doesn't go much farther than that mechanically (other than some short chase sequences, which require no real additional effort on the player's part), the atmosphere and presentation are simply fantastic. The music is perfect for the atmosphere, the ups and downs are right where they should be, the plot is clear (but very open to interpretation), and the art style is unmatched. A special mention goes out to the animation, which is exquisite. The team certainly knew what they were doing when it came to audio-visual design; and if they didn't, they did a damn good job of faking it.

There was never a point where I got stuck, but never a point where I felt like I was being patronized, either. At the same time, though, in terms of gameplay there is nothing groundbreaking here. The aforementioned chase sequences added some deal of tension, remarkably, even though it was plain as day that there was little to actually do in terms of player input—so that's another point for style, while mechanical substance remains pretty tame.

I do not think video games are an art form—which is, of course, a discussion for another time. However, Gris comes very close to being something I would call "art" while still retaining a sense of what makes a video game a video game. As far as I could tell, there was no real significant loss condition, so it falls short of truly being defined as a "game", but the presentation more than balances this out. The plot is minimal, but poignant, and will resonate deeply with anyone who has experienced intense loss in their lifetime.

So it still misses the mark of being both art and a true game. But it's close, and it's worth what little time you will spend with it. That's not a bad thing, either: It knows when to quit. Right when I started to get a bit tired of the mechanics, Gris came to a satisfying conclusion.

Final Rating

Decent