Video Game review: Gris

What if a simplistic game was one of the best things you ever saw?

Nomada Studio (2018)

I like “smaller” video games. I find myself drawn to those that present a different scale than impressive and imposing AAA games with tens or hundreds of hours of gameplay. Small is however not a quality in itself, as most smaller indie games are just as uninteresting to me as their big-budget counterparts, but more often than not it’s within that category that I manage to find games with a more singular approach, something more concise, more focused, and ultimately something unique that makes them stand out.

I felt like it was the case for Gris as soon as I saw images of it. Recently I finally purchased it on the PSN for the PlayStation 4, for a tiny sum of money, and I wish I had a physical copy as this is one of the rare games that truly touched me.

It’s fairly difficult to sum up Gris, simply put it’s a 2D platform game, where you play a young girl dealing with formidable forces, in a world like no other.

The Bad: Like all good things, it ended too quickly

The Good: A combination of stunning visual assets and a beautiful soundtrack

The platforming mechanics are simple (could even say basic) but are perfectly implemented, as controlling the character feels smooth and instinctive, playing Gris is a pleasant experience throughout

Animations are flawless and performance is lovely and fluid, with negligible loading times

The tone is rather sad, dark and depressed (but not only), the adventure will take you to different places in that world, all gorgeous, where you’ll be soaring high in starry skies or diving deep through unending abysses. The use of colors is superb and interestingly integrated in the overall game design

My opinion: Gris is a peculiar thing to talk about. In terms of video game, nothing revolutionary or particularly original about it. To me it’s more accurate to describe it as a sensory experience.

I really enjoy the visual storytelling, and the lack of details about what any of it is all about. I read a few things afterwards, people’s interpretations and so on, but I feel it’s almost counter-productive to search meaning and explanations. I surmise that Gris is not something you are meant to understand, but you are meant to feel.

While I played the game I was constantly marveling at the artwork and was mesmerized by the music and unique ambiance it delivers. Then at some moments, like those when the pace picks up and the music intensifies, I was completely floored by it…

These moments that I can only describe as complete virtuoso performances, connected with me on an emotional level, almost bringing me to tears. I don’t need to understand the true message or intentions behind the story, I can just go with the flow and experience something very rare.

I thought I spotted the influence of games like Journey and Rime (I hope I’m right on this), and it’s absolutely not a problem for me as in this day and age what is truly original? And taking inspiration from great stuff is a good idea, especially as Gris perfectly manages to be its own thing.

I bet it will come up in many discussions about whether video games are an art form or not. Myself I would not consider Gris as a work of art, I would say it as an amalgamation of different art forms, but frankly I could not care less about this issue. What matters to me is that Gris is a clearly a work of passion, made by extremely talented people, and they managed to create something unique that resonates with me, something beautiful and that they can be very proud of.

Gris is a short burst of beauty and sadness, and it happens to take the form of a video game. I fell in love with it and it immediately made the list of my favorite games.

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