Review – GRIS

Grief is one of the most powerful emotions a soul can experience and everyone handles it in their own way. Some people use humor as a way to deflect negativity from themselves. Some bury themselves in work or projects so they don’t have to think about it. Then there are those who give in to it and let the pain envelop them. It can become so overwhelming that some are never able to recover. GRIS from Nomada Studios and Devolver Digital, is a game unlike any other, as it takes you through the various forms of the grieving process in the most beautifully symbolic way possible.

GRIS is the tale of a young girl who has suffered a tragedy in her life and is trying to work through it. Her journey starts with her singing to a large statue of a woman, only to have it shatter and cast her into the dreamlike area below. When she comes to, she finds herself with no voice and in a world devoid of color, representing her initial numbness to life around her. As she makes her way across the land, she finds some celestial fragments strewn about and works to collect them. After gathering enough, they come together to form a new path in the shape of a constellation that she can walk across to reach a new area. Each new area imbues the world with a new color into her blank pallet as she goes through the different stages of grief.

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The feeling of emptiness.

At its heart, GRIS is a very simple platformer with some occasional puzzles thrown in. It is by no means a difficult game, but then again, it wasn’t supposed to be. GRIS is more about traveling with the girl through these unknown lands and coming out the other side. It’s about surviving devastation. You cannot die or sustain damage in GRIS. This is not a game that focuses on gaining experience points and leveling up, although there are a few gameplay mechanics that will unlock as the game progresses.

The girl wears a solid black cloak as is expected for funeral attire. It also serves several functions throughout the game. Near the beginning of the game, she’ll gain the ability to have her cloak form a solid block that she can use to bash through loose rocks and potted plants or keep her grounded when gales of wind blow past. Later, she’ll be able to dive through deep water and explore the depths below. These are just a couple of examples of the versatility of movements found within GRIS.

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Her song breaths life into the world.

The visuals in GRIS is what sets it apart from all the others. It features an entirely hand drawn look with a watercolor scheme filling the background. Its beauty is absolutely breathtaking. I’ve seen games that boasted a masterfully hand illustrated look like Gorogoa, but the magnificence of the watercolor paints create the perfect ambiance for this game and the message it sets to deliver. Just as the colors are meant to represent a different emotion that accompanies the stages of dealing with loss, the watercolors bleeding their hues across the environments brilliantly express the feeling of emotions overshadowing everything else.

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Our protagonist in watercolor splendor.

The art style of GRIS goes hand in hand with its musical score. Berliner’s soundscapes are the perfect accompaniment to the overall tone in GRIS. The music is, in a word, sublime. It manages to evoke a deep emotional response with each piece that corresponds with its intended setting. For example, the red wind storms utilize pianos, organs, and a choir to convey the rage that one feels at the start of the grieving process. There are no words or voice acting of any kind, save for the girl’s singing, so the fact that they were able to clearly impart their intent on what should be felt at that time is nothing short of genius.

GRIS is a relatively short game, but it’s one that should not be missed. It might be easy, but this game is more about the experience to be had. The puzzles are fun to solve and the few gameplay mechanics that are introduced throughout keep the game from becoming boring. Its seamless storytelling along with stunning visuals and hauntingly beautiful soundtrack makes this a journey worth taking.

 

Graphics: 10

A gorgeous hand illustrated look with watercolor saturated backgrounds makes this whole game a work of art.

Gameplay: 9.0

Very simple platformer with some puzzles sprinkled in intermittently. A few gameplay mechanics add a fun element to it.

Sound: 10

The musical score is divine and provides the perfect context for the various stages of the game.

Fun Factor: 9.0

While GRIS is incredibly easy, it’s more about the experience as a whole and tells a beautiful story about a girl coping with loss. It’s so unique that you’ll be captivated from the start.

Final Verdict: 9.5

GRIS is available now on Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of GRIS was provided by the publisher.

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