Gaming Editor Imogen Mellor discovers the melancholy world of GRIS, exploring a grieving character’s journey and growth through a gorgeously-crafted world
Every so often I am reminded that gaming is an art form. Between the excitement of storylines or fast paced action titles, little pieces of art can appear within smaller indie developments. GRIS is one such piece of art.
You play as a girl who has lost something important to her. You never really know what she has lost, no words are ever said, but you do know it’s significance. She is devastated, and needs to find some sort of peace.
Something I would like to note straight off of the bat is the beauty of the first few moments of the game. I hope this isn’t too spoilerly as it literally is 30 seconds into the game, but after her home and platform crumbles away and you are given the first opportunity to start playing as Gris and something unexpected happens. You can walk left or right, but as a curious gamer might always do in a game’s first moments, testing the A and B buttons hoping for a jump instead leads to Gris collapsing. It’s such a small detail that feels genuinely shocking. She is tired and heartbroken and you try to push her and she can’t do what you expect her to. She simply doesn’t have the power. Such a minute detail, but really truly a gorgeous bit of game design.
The game continues to look and feel gorgeous. Little bits of storytelling are everywhere you look. If anyone has played the game Journey, it’s sensation is very similar. You understand what you have to do and where you have to go, but never really know why she has to do these things. It’s all very metaphorical and it’s better for it. The game very has to explain itself to you. It is what it is, and that’s absolutely the best way GRIS can explain itself.
As with most games however, there is something I would say could have been different. I’m someone who hates jumpscares. No horror games ever grace my shelves because frankly, I hate the idea of waiting to jump out of my skin and then not sleep that night thinking about it. There is just the one jumpscare in GRIS, and although it’s not a horror type of moment, my lord, did I almost have a heart attack. It’s annoying that such a calm game has something like that within it. Although, yes it adds something of a sense of urgency, but I wonder if it added anything more than that. I write about it here, as a warning to those who might be like me and would prefer to know in advance rather than be shocked like I was.
My other issue was how short it was. Despite it looking like it could go on for hours, it stops short of where you think it might. It’s sad because you want to see more of the world and it’s creatures but you have no way of doing that. The other issue with it being short is the problems that the game give you to solve are far more frequently about timing and direction, rather than actual puzzles, so there isn’t much in the way of challenge. When someone says the game may be about 2 and a half to 3 hours long, it’s likely to take that much time for everyone, because challenge in this game is almost non-existent. You get the impression that the game is about it’s sense of sorrow and that aesthetic rather than the gameplay itself.
Other bits of delight overwhelm these doubts though. Huge positives include the sound design, colour palette, art style and music in general. All of the above are gorgeous and suit the game so well. You ‘unlock’ colours as you go, which makes the levels of that colour look more and more beautiful. Red is a desert setting. Green a forest. Blue underwater. Finally, yellow levels are based around light. All of which are enchanting to look at.
The way the game sounds is also just so satisfying. In some areas, as Gris runs, her footsteps chime and make music. When you do get the ability to sing, the notes are echoed in the level’s soundtrack. It’s all so delicate and intricate, it really drives home the passion and dedication of the team behind the game itself.
If you’re looking for a fulfilling and short but sweet experience in gaming right now, GRIS should definitely be on your list. Too often will a game cost a lot for many hours of gameplay, and yet you can never quite commit the hours needed to it to be worth the money or time. GRIS admittedly, may cost quite a lot for only around 3 hours worth of content, and it isn’t really replayable, but I would definitely advise others to keep an eye out for when it’s on sale. If you can’t wait that long, then that’s okay. It’s still not going to break the bank.
All in all, GRIS really is a breath of fresh air, both in a hectic life, and with games. It’s a one in a million sort of experience and if you’re looking for a game that is truly magical, look no further.