I’ve had my eye on GRIS since I first saw art from it – filled with soft pastels and masterful blending, it looked more like a watercolor painting than a game. It’s the first title from Barcelona-based Nomada Studio, who wanted to create an experience more than anything else.
GRIS starts the player off in the middle of an empty, grey landscape. There’s nowhere to go but forward, where you’ll unlock your first colour – red. With the unlocking of a colour, more of the world will become visible. Where there was emptiness, you might find water. In the dark there will now be lights. Vines will grow. Pathways will become uncovered. Colour makes the world both brighter and more full to explore. Along the way, you will be tasked with finding lights. Find enough, and the way ahead opens.
There are no real enemies in GRIS – at least not that you’ll need to worry about. You can’t die, and it’s not a horribly challenging game. Instead, the focus is on exploring your world and interacting with it. The gameplay is formed entirely of platforming mechanics and puzzles, with plenty of leniency to retry if you don’t succeed the first time.
The primary goal of GRIS, seemingly, was to bring the artwork of Barcelona-based artist Conrad Roset to life, and it certainly succeeds. GRIS is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever seen – even three hours in I still found myself amazed by the scenes and visuals. It’s a lovely art piece that never ceases to outdo itself. There’s always something more beautiful coming up. New colours, new places, new creatures. It’s a never-ending show of scenes that could belong on any wall. GRIS also boasts a lovely soundtrack, featuring the music of Berlinist – it’s a joy to look at and to listen to. Every level felt less like a new challenge and more like a new journey.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews refer to GRIS as too heavy on style and too light on substance, but the longer I played, the more I disagreed with that. The game starts a little slowly – you don’t have much you can do as you keep pressing forward along the barren landscape. Once you get more mechanics, puzzles and platforming sections become much more clever and occasionally tricky (the upside down mechanics were actually a really nice twist on otherwise straightforward sections). The gameplay on controller is so smooth – particularly once you reach the water sections. I actually fully enjoyed playing GRIS.
I do think that you have to know what you’re going into, or you might be disappointed. GRIS is an artistic experience, with rather cathartic and calm gameplay. You won’t find fast-paced action or difficult boss battles here. You won’t find voice acting or a heavy story. GRIS is a different type of game entirely. It’s certainly more heavy on style than mechanics but I don’t think that’s a lack of substance – just a different kind. GRIS is about finding your voice. It’s an interactive art piece, and that’s okay.
If you’re looking for something visually stunning to play that will draw you into its world and don’t mind the focus on light puzzles, GRIS is definitely a lovely experience worth undertaking.