GRIS Review

GRIS is truly hard to describe. It’s a moving painting, a surreal experience starting in pale colors but eventually highlighted by vibrant colors. Each set piece looks like it belongs in a museum, a beauty truly exhilarating to watch in motion. Couple that with a truly moving story – even if I don’t quite know how to interpret it – and solid platforming and GRIS becomes one of the sleeper hits of the entire year.

GRIS tells the story of a girl trapped in this beautiful and bizarre world. We don’t who she is, what her name is, or what happened to her, but as we travel we can see whatever occurred really broke her down. Crumbled statues of a mournful woman adorn the land, and we must reach these statues in order to return the world to its former colorful glory.

Beautiful Sorrow

As far as what’s going on in this game…honestly I don’t know for sure. I’ve interpreted this story three different ways, each one equally tragic but all three of them beautiful. There are common themes apparent throughout the game – grief, sorrow, depression, and trying to break out of those emotions – but the vague nature of the storytelling leaves everything up to interpretation…just like the best modern art. GRIS won’t beat your brow with its message, it wants you to think for yourself for once, and I appreciate that. 

The platforming and puzzles are not as revolutionary, although some of them really threw me through a loop. Abilities learned throughout the adventure help this heroine get through each challenge, from learning to swim to gliding through the air. One puzzle involving the ability to turn into a block and become heavy had me spellbound, the kind of solution where I had to sit and ponder before pressing on. Few games elicit that sort of reaction from me, but GRIS made a habit of it.

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The environmental puzzles are mostly mazes, getting from one spot to another by navigating through some sort of obstacle course, while others have a bit more thought put into them. None of them are super difficult either, they just require a bit of thought and a keen eye. I suppose this is because Nomada wanted the story to be front and center, which is fine. However, that risk doesn’t always pay off, as a few of the early puzzles were less “wow” and more “oh.” The “game” part of GRIS could have used a bit more fleshing out, but there was enough here to keep me interested as I played through.

Fortune Favors the Patient

GRIS isn’t terribly long, I’d estimate about four hours of total playtime if that, and yet some parts still felt like they dragged on a bit. I felt like the game was padded in a few sections, like I was solving this puzzle just because they needed another puzzle. The general speed of the game may be to blame, as things do move at leisurely pace. I’d have liked a little more efficiency in the overall flow of the game, a bit more brevity to counter the slow pace. Luckily the fluff didn’t negatively impact the rest of the experience too severely.

I loved looking at GRIS. I loved playing GRIS. I loved watching GRIS in motion. Is this the next industry breaking game? No, it’s a standard puzzle platformer at its core. It is, however, an emotional and beautiful journey, an adventure where every event is up to the player’s own interpretation. It’s maybe a half-hour longer than it needs to be, but that 30 minutes cannot damper the total package of GRIS. Put this game on your radar immediately and take the time to experience it.

***Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher***