I actually avoided buying Gris for a long time. I knew I would eventually, artsy indie games on switch are pretty much my kryptonite. It was my random stupid brain that stopped me from buying it until now, I had heard amazing rave reviews and my own hype aversion kept me from buying it because I was sure it couldn’t possibly be as good as everyone said it was.
And it turned out it was amazing! Go figure!
Gris has gotten praise for its artwork, soundtrack and narrative and it deserves all the praise it receives. The game is done using a stunning watercolor style, and the animation flows fluidly throughout the whole world. I screen capture things on the switch when I know I’ll want to add them to an article or page, and I found myself having to consciously avoid capturing just about every scene from Gris. The whole thing was captivating in a way that is difficult to describe, but incredibly effective.
I tend to be weary of art games because they lean too heavily on their beauty and don’t actually make a fun game. Gris has some solid puzzles, nothing I had to Google (and I’m a notoriously lazy puzzle gamer, I’ll Google anything) but a couple that took some thinking. The real beauty of Gris is in its pacing. Gris has amazing pacing, never spending too long in any one area or on any one puzzle. The game could be a bit short for some, I don’t mind its 4 hour run time but I also wrote a whole article about how I don’t mind games with shorter run times so take that as you will. I never found myself bored or frustrated, and I was always finding myself looking forward to what the next step was going to be.
Players looking for a more difficult puzzler or in depth narrative will be disappointed by Gris, there’s technically not even a lose condition. But if you enjoy beautiful experiences with awesome soundtracks and have $15 to spare I couldn’t recommend it more.
I’m going to be talking about the game and sharing screenshots pretty freely from this point, so if you prefer your artistic experiences unsullied consider yourselves warned.
The game as a whole is a metaphor about grief, and it does an amazing job of using its visuals and music to walk the player through the 5 stages. Starting out your beautiful statue is cracked and destroyed, and in the process all the color is sucked out of the world and character. Starting out the player is unable to do anything more than slowly stumble forward, trying to press the jump button results in the character dropping to her knees, too weak to continue. I usually don’t enjoy controllable helplessness situations in games, but only because they tend to drag on just a tad too long in most cases for me. Gris regained it’s player momentum fairly quickly and so the emotional impact of the characters stilted movement had its full effect without overstaying its welcome.
From that point you journey onward, doing some light platforming to collect tiny pieces of light. As you unlock the light you gain different powers that allow you to pass certain challenges. As you progress the game’s colors return, and the artwork really does shine through with its theme through the use of colors.
You progress through the colors in order with red, green, blue, and yellow with each color having a stage of grief it’s associated with. All of the colors create beautiful new settings to explore and use your new powers in. The real kicker is when you finally gain “Yellow” which brings back the character’s voice. From that point on the game’s location is one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen in games.
The end is succinct and a tad cliche, but done so well that it works. The player working their way through the delicately crafted levels all the way to acceptance really does strike an amazing chord that the visuals hammer home into a unique and satisfying experience.
Once again, for anyone who is even remotely into the idea of indie or art games, I couldn’t recommend Gris more. Give it a try, there are way worse ways to spend $15.