GAME REVIEW | "GRIS" A True Work of Digital Art
Very rarely has there been a video game that's left me completely speechless. As I watched the end credits roll after playing Nomada Studio's GRIS, I was left inaudible by what I had just bore witness to. Goosebumps covered my body, and my eyes were widened by the visual spectacle that had taken place. With 2018 nearing its end, GRIS somehow came up from behind last-minute to present a powerful message in one of the most awe-inspiring packages you'll find in gaming this year.
The story in GRIS isn't all too clear, as Nomada Studio takes a more minimalistic route with its narrative. A woman has seemingly lost her voice in a world void of color, and it is up to her to bring back both. As you walk through, players will discover various puzzles and orbs that will need to be solved and collected in order to move forward. After finding the right amount of orbs, new abilities and areas will unlock, giving way to finding unexpected hazards and battles that will test your might and brain power to the core.
Because its tale takes a more abstract approach, there are many way to interpret what this unnamed woman is attempting to do. On one hand, it can be seen as a mere fairy tale, as a fantastical world that's lost its luster is slowly reborn thanks to the bravery of this protagonist. Another way of looking at GRIS is as an internal conflict with a woman who's experienced the worst kind of physical/mental hell, and is picking up the pieces of her fragile being. A lot of evidence does lean towards it being the latter, especially with there being no means of dying or any legit danger on the player's part.
Some might be turned off by a game without any sort of penalty for failure. However, it's the challenges that GRIS has to offer that make up for this. Using the various skills to jump, smash, swim, and -- later on -- sing towards a solution, players will often discover one big obstacle after another, especially when collecting orbs to unlock the new powers and levels. Many times you'll need to be quick on your feet as you leap long distances or use your eyes to find a cracked foundation to smash right through to reach new destinations to explore.
Although there aren't true boss battles per se, there will be times when you'll come across a being wanting to cause harm on your essence. These moments will have you using your skills to fend off threats and unleash a certain willpower from within to take on these road blocks. While they're not tough to figure out, their overall presentation does showcase some fantastic depths towards how big of a threat they are to the hero of this story. Granted, these are but representations of this woman's darker psyche, but because of how they symbolize elements of trauma, these "foes" give off a far deeper meaning to their existence.
This leads me to the strongest aspect of GRIS: its visuals. Using hand-drawn animation with watercolor-like palettes, Nomada Studio gives off an experience that cannot be compared to any other video game out there. With a style that feels like an animated French independent film, the worlds and characters deliver a sort of fluidity and beauty that has never been achieved in an interactive experience up until this very point. One cannot help but take a screen capture of every single area you come across, as it gives way to a presentation worthy enough to be framed and hung in the finest of art museums.
Also on par with the animation is its soundtrack. Composed by the Spain-based band Berlinist, the score takes a cue from the narrative and uses minimalist sounds and melodies to act as a backdrop to what's occurring on-screen. But when a big moment occurs in the game, that's when the music grabs hold of the game's emotional aspect and blares it out of the speakers with power and triumph. Comparable to Kevin Penkin's work on the anime Made In Abyss, Berlinist translates the mentality of the hero and the sadness that's engulfed the world you roam in, crafting some of the most beautiful songs in gaming this year.
GRIS will take you roughly four hours to complete, which is the only downside I can find with this game. Thankfully, there are reasons to dive back into this experience, thanks in part to some hidden challenges that are scattered throughout the world. Even if those weren't in the game, this is one title that -- like a great movie -- can and should be experienced more than once to bear witness to its beauty.
- Beautiful visuals
- Easy gameplay mechanics
- Gorgeous soundtrack
- Runs a bit short
GRIS is in a class all of its own. An enchanting adventure from start-to-finish, Nomada Studio delivers an emotional experience that you will not find anywhere else. Next time someone claims video games aren't art, point them towards the direction of GRIS, and see how quickly they'll change their mind.
Promotional consideration provided by Thomas Schulenberg of Tinsley PR. Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.