Genuine artistry is hard to come by. Many developers pour their hearts and souls into their work and unfortunately, things often get lost in translation. However, with Nomada Studio’s Gris, everything just seems to fall into place, while brilliantly conveying a powerful message about dealing with loss and reconciling with the past.
With a clear inspiration from Journey, Gris often puts the gameplay in the backseat in order to focus on atmosphere and simplicity. However, the mechanics are fleshed out over the course of the journey to provide a degree of growth for both the narrative and gameplay purposes. Genrewise, Gris falls into the puzzle-platformer category with a notable focus on flow. Movement is smooth and the controls are very straightforward. Each level has its own set of new mechanics that keep the gameplay from becoming repetitive.
When it comes to the puzzles, they’re very intuitive and generally on the easy side. Regardless, there are collectibles for those interested in some real brain-teasers. As the game progressed, the puzzles got more challenging, but it never really got to a point where solving them became the reason to play. They are more of a means to an end, with the end being a way to subtly inject symbolism into the gameplay, thereby marrying player interaction with the narrative.
Gris’s story feels incredibly personal, while also being thematically universal. The game doesn’t tell its tale through dialogue, but through action. The narrative came off as very introspective, like a sort of an internal struggle. It begins with our main character, a girl named Gris, on the palm of a statue. As the statue crumbles, she descends downward into a monochromatic world. It sets the stage for a simple journey on the surface, while weaving a coming of age story through mechanical metaphors.
Minimalism was a key focus in crafting the narrative. Throughout the year, I’ve encountered many indie games that try to approach their stories with minimalism and ended up feeling incredibly bland and lifeless. With Gris, however, the developers at Nomada Studio managed to say so much with so little. Coupled with the aforementioned symbolism-coated gameplay and you have a recipe for a masterpiece in the making. From the impressively emotional intro to the exceptionally eloquent ending, I absolutely enjoyed the journey through and through.
Visually, the game is undoubtedly breathtaking with its stunning watercolor aesthetic. Everything, from the landscapes to the architecture, is elegantly crafted with the utmost care. The meticulous nature of the artistry even applies to the choice of colors. At the start of the game, it’s limited to a monochromatic color palette. As the game progresses, colors slowly return for narrative, gameplay, and aesthetic purposes.
Each time a color returns, the visual style drastically shifts, while remaining captivating each time. The environments heavily emphasize the newly introduced colors in memorable ways that tied into the story. From the beautiful, yet aggressive reds to the cold, melancholic blues, Gris is a master of colors. By the end, the distinct visual approach left me really appreciating every single color.
Gris also speaks to the soul. The music plays a key role in the game’s brilliantly crafted atmosphere. It accentuates and facilitates the emotions that the game conveys. The lush orchestral music complemented by the powerful piano pieces and weighty vocals left me astounded. As a whole, the presentation is a near-perfect achievement in how gracefully it builds up an emotional response.
The true beauty of a minimalist story tied with absolutely stunning visuals and emotionally resonant music make for a genuine masterpiece. Gris is an absolute gem of a work that definitely deserves your attention.