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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Nomada Studio
Release Date: Dec. 13, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Gris'

by Fran Soto on Jan. 14, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Free of danger, frustration or death, players will explore a meticulous designed world brought to life with delicate art, detailed animation, and an elegant original score.

Buy Gris

There is a camp of video game enthusiasts who sees games as more than just entertainment. Developers can have a team of people dedicated to game design, so the things we play may very well end up being living works of art. Gris is one such game that falls under the definition of moving art. Developed by Spanish Nomada Studio, Gris is a thought-provoking title that astounds with its beauty and graphical design. It's an indie title that returns to the basics of what makes indie games so great. A puzzling platformer that makes use of colorful palettes and hand drawn visuals, Gris is a fresh experience for the eyes and ears.

One thing about Gris is that it is open to interpretation. We're privy to someone's experience. We play as the protagonist, a young woman with supernatural, ethereal powers. She has experienced loss and must bring color to her gray world. That promptly plays into the title of the game, since "gris" means "gray" in Spanish and other Romance languages. The world is colorful and beautifully hand-drawn. Gorgeous graphics help set the tone for the game and make every moment a work of art. A fantastic medley of orchestral components provides a sentimental soundtrack that serves as the background to our adventure. Heart-tugging strings and deep piano composition create a heartfelt ambiance that we can hear, see and feel.

We open with an emotional backstory. We're not sure what has happened, but we can feel her anguish, and the visuals confirm a sense of loss. Gris is a story of rebuilding after loss and creates a relatable, emotional world. We must help our protagonist overcome the obstacles of loss by traversing different puzzles. Nomada Studio does an excellent job of relating to its audience. We've all experienced loss, and the studio's attempt to visualize emotional instability hits a correct note. Everything from the broken landscape, the graying ambiance, and touching musical composition help create a solid theme within the game.

Throughout our journey, we must collect motes of light that allow us to bypass areas. The lights might even be symbolic of the hope that comes with recovery. Gris has a loose story and is more of an experience. As we travel through each area, our goal is to return color to a graying world. This is beautifully brought to life by watercolor visuals and hand-drawn elements. Even level design is clean and thoroughly thought-out. Traveling through each area is a visual feast for the eyes, with some elements reminiscent of other works of art. At one point, our protagonist slides down a long hill, with the sunrise in the background illuminating her figure. I instantly thought back to the 2012 indie hit, Journey. Gris parallels Journey in other ways as well: Our silent protagonist carries out a dedicated task with risks along the way. As we make our way through Gris and add more color to our world, we learn that self-doubt is our enemy.

"Boss fights" within the game have us utilizing our accumulated powers to bypass puzzling platforms. Our enemy takes the form of a giant black bird that chases us down. There's no fighting or killing in Gris. It's a game of wits more than anything else. It's an excellent way to force us to use combinations of powers in different ways. Our protagonist collects various powers that are useful for platforming reasons. These powers provide a more dynamic form of play than just running and jumping over obstacles. Puzzles within the game make use of these various abilities in excellent designs that make us think. In addition to trying to collect the necessary motes of light to move to new areas, there are collectibles and challenges that enable us to go off the beaten path. It's a pleasant surprise to see such depth of content in such a small title.

Gris doesn't attempt to overcomplicate itself or reinvent the wheel. Instead, it focuses on providing quality content by reminding us of what indie titles are supposed to do. Its focus is to tell a narrative with which one can connect. While times during my playthrough did have me scratching my head at what was going on, Gris is so beautiful that it almost makes up for the lack of concrete story. I almost didn't care that I had no clue where I was going, what I was doing, or how any of this came to be. Gris asks us to live in the moment. It speaks volumes that the title can create such a loose story and still be a modern masterpiece. It's a game that has a concrete theme and ideas with a solid direction of what it wants you to do. Similarly, Journey has no real story, but it commits to the quest. Gris has us commit to the quest of healing, and it works for the title.

The player utilizes basic cognitive mechanics, so Gris is an incredibly intuitive game that doesn't try to be overly difficult. There were some genuine headscratchers when it came to certain puzzles, but nothing kept us stuck for long. It's an excellent touch to the title that makes it accessible. We want to be challenged, but we don't want the story to stop dead in its tracks where progression stalls and we lose the momentum. Gris prides itself on being a game that every level of player can get into. Whether you're looking for a casual experience or looking for challenging completion, the title has extreme flexibility for all players while maintaining its own focus. In addition, Gris is an excellent title for those looking to add to their Nintendo Switch library. While the game is available on Xbox and PC as well, the platformer lends itself beautifully to the Switch's mobile technology. It's bright, crisp visuals look excellent in both handheld and docked mode. The title also makes use of the Switch's rumble technology for additional play depth.

Gris is a beautiful explosion of color with a touching and emotional journey. Hand-drawn visuals show that it's a title crafted with love. While the story is loose and can leave players feeling a little lost, there are emotional cues that symbolize this as a journey of loss and healing. The excellent soundtrack, level design and commitment to themes make Gris a memorable title for all. With fun, adventurous platforming and puzzles that are both challenging and intuitive, its playstyle keeps things simple by placing player cognition at the forefront. Gris is a true work of indie art that prides itself on attention to details. Fans of works of art and video games will find a relatable home in Gris. Although this is Nomada Studio's first title, it has hit every possible note out of the park.

Score: 9.0/10

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