If you’re someone that loves playing through games with a very big emphasis on beautiful visuals, then GRIS from Devolver Digital is right up your alley. GRIS is a gorgeous 2D platformer with some puzzles mixed into its lonely yet colorful world, creating a serene atmosphere that compliments its open-ended story. But as beautiful as the visuals will look to anybody, some of its gameplay at various points will stick out as the outlier to an otherwise great experience. But that doesn’t mean it completely wrecks an experience with enough emotion to show that you don’t need words to express something truly heartfelt.
It can’t be understated just how pretty and visually awesome GRIS looks. The animation for the main character and the surrounding environment is top notch. Every object around you has a ton of frames of animation that give a smooth, almost majestic movement to them. At the start, the lack of color is part of the narrative to convey certain ideas and emotions that the main character is experiencing, which is effective in its own way.
But as you progress through different areas and complete challenges along the way, the world around you begins to brighten up and adopt new colors that change the surrounding platforms and backgrounds. When this happens, you’re greeted with some truly awesome events that are pure candy for your eyes.
This is only made better with the soundtrack, which is a combination of light music and a lot of ambient sounds. Walking through a forest will be filled with the sounds of mysterious creatures hiding away or far in the distance, while a dessert will have nothing but the light sound of the wind and your footsteps in the sand. Even without music to play along as you progress, you can get sucked into GRIS’ stages through these sounds alone, and may even find yourself just standing still and taking in what’s around you. It just feels that good to listen to.
Presentation aside, GRIS doesn’t have much going for its gameplay outside of basic platforming and puzzles to overcome. Most of the time, you’ll be jump across platforms and gathering small pieces of light to help you traverse a new obstacle or solve some puzzle, which ends up being not very difficult. Occasionally you’ll find places that give you brand new abilities, which change the way the main character looks and interacts with what’s around her.
In some areas, there is a boss encounter that requires you to cleverly get around without tackling the enemy head-on. They’re interesting and look great in motion, but they are also heavily guided and don’t require much skill to complete. If you wanted something difficult or heavily focused on the challenge of the gameplay, then GRIS won’t deliver for you.
What is very interesting is the story of the game, which can be interpreted in many ways. You play as a girl within the colorless world and gradually restore color to everything as you complete each area. A lot of the structures and background objects you come across give some insight into the story, but nothing is ever stately clearly or outright told to you.
Some have said that the girl is experiencing the emotions one goes through with heartbreak or loss, but it can be seen as either way or something different. Since you aren’t given anything concrete about what is happening, the looseness of the story may or may not work for some people who put a lot of emphasis in the stories they play through.
GRIS is a beautiful game with a somber tone. If you want a game to really make you relax and take in beautiful visuals, then it will do so phenomenally. The music is great and the overall presentation is absolutely fantastic. But with its gameplay, GRIS doesn’t do more than the minimal it needs to have you play through its visually pleasing levels. This doesn’t ruin the overall experience however, as you’re still getting a window into an emotional and graceful looking world.
This review is based on a digital review code for GRIS on the Nintendo Switch, provided by Devolver Digital.