GRIS Review: A Watercolor Platformer Full of Hope
This week sees the release of an indie narrative platformer called GRIS. It is Barcelona-based Nomada Studio's first game and is being published by indie giant Devolver Digital. It is available on PC and Mac and will also be released on Nintendo Switch at a later date.
GRIS follows the story of a young girl who is beginning to explore her own emotions following on from a drastic event which has changed her world completely. The game boasts no combat, no deaths just plenty of platforming goodness and puzzles.
Story and Setting
As I've already said, GRIS follows the story of a young girl as she tries to come to terms with her emotions following a sad experience in her life. The titular character starts off with no special abilities and is just her exploring the world around her.
It has an unspoken story but as you progress through the game, you start to get an idea of what might have happened. There is no dialogue and no text to read. Through changes in the artwork and gradual introduction of abilities, the more you play the more you develop the story and begin to understand what is going on.
I don't know about you, but there are certain things I look for when looking at new indie games. The first thing is always going to be its look. One of the first things you will notice about GRIS is that the developers have gone for a very fine hand-drawn kind of look and, in my opinion, this has got to be the best thing about this game.
The watercolor effect the game has is simply superb and adds a beauty to it that is rarely seen in games these days. It has also been used to influence the story and the more you progress, the more color is introduced in the game. It starts out pretty monochromatic but, as you will find out, it becomes more colorful as you progress.
I'm not going to lie. The controls themselves are pretty basic and straightforward for anyone who has spent a lot of time playing platformers. Given that there is no combat in GRIS, the controls simply move you around and activate the abilities you gain as you progress.
These abilities come in the form of her dress. The dress can move independently and change shape depending on what you want it to do. Do you want Gris to become heavier? The dress turns into a block and gives you extra weight. You want to do a double jump to get over an obstacle? The dress wafts up to give you extra lift. This gives the character a good bit of development as the game progresses.
Aside from completing puzzles, the one other thing that you need to do in GRIS is to collect stars. Stars can be used to form walkways or bridge gaps when they are joined together. It is also through collecting these stars that Gris' dress gains its abilities. Once you have enough stars, they can be made into constellations to form special symbols and creatures which will grant you these special abilities.
All in all, GRIS is an absolute charm of an indie game. The story developing as you go along is engaging, the artwork is stunning and the puzzles are just hard enough to keep your mind working without being too hard and make you frustrated. For the first game from a small indie studio, this game is very impressive. If they continue this trend of blending aesthetics and gameplay in such a way, I can see them gaining a lot of recognition.
- Mechanics change and develop as the story develops
- Beautiful artistic design and emotive storytelling
- Consequence-free world
- Could be considered simplistic
[Disclosure: A copy of GRIS was provided for review purposes.]