Gris opens in a world devoid of color. As a nameless, silent young woman, you traverse the desolate landscape, filled with crumbling ruins and a bleak sky, with an almost balletic sense of movement. You float and glide through the world. Slowly you’re able to bring color and light back, and as the world morphs, so does the main character. Gris starts out simple and stark, but ends as one of the most beautiful games ever made.
The simple way of describing Gris is that it’s a side-scrolling platform game where many of the traditional elements have been stripped away. There are no real enemies to avoid, and you won’t die from a big fall. In fact, as far as I can tell, you can’t die at all. There are some mildly difficult platforming segments, but for the most part you won’t find yourself especially challenged while playing. But it’s not that kind of game.
‘Gris’ is primarily about experiencing the world
Instead, Gris is about experiencing the world, and unravelling the mysterious story at its core. At first there isn’t much to it. You simply walk through an empty space. What’s remarkable about Gris, though, is how it constantly introduces new concepts, and steadily builds into something more complex. The goal, ostensibly, is to collect a series of orbs scattered around, which in turn will create constellations in the sky that will eventually add color back to the world. With each color comes a completely new experience.
The first color you’ll uncover is red, which turns Gris’ world into a harsh desert. Powerful winds will push you around, forcing you to hold on and wait for them to end. Later on, green will bring plants and animals, and blue will introduce rain and water. With each change comes new ways to interact with the world, including new abilities. In order to withstand the heavy winds, for instance, you can turn your character into a heavy block. After a few hours she’ll be able to swim, float, and team up with birds to rocket through the sky.
While it’s not especially difficult, solving the puzzles in Gris is still incredibly satisfying. It’s reminiscent of Monument Valley in that way. The game plays with lighting, movement, and perspective to make it so that it’s not always clear exactly what you need to do next. And since there’s no tutorial or real guidance, it feels like you’re figuring things out on your own.
I couldn’t stop taking screenshots
What makes this all work, though, is the world itself. Simply put, Gris is absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of the most breathtaking games I’ve ever played. I couldn’t stop taking screenshots, as each new scene was more beautiful than the last. In motion, it’s like a hand-drawn animated film, filled with details that bring the world and its inhabitants to life; the way the character’s cape flutters as she glides through the air, or the shape-shifting creatures that will distort themselves as they chase you. At times you’re even able to shape the landscape, bringing plants to life or lighting a previously invisible path.
This ever-changing world is what keeps Gris engaging for the few hours it lasts. Like Monument Valley, it’s comparatively short and easy, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a game where just exploring is enough. It feels good to move around, and the game looks so amazing that you can’t help but want to see what’s next. It’s a game that starts out beautiful, and only improves the more you play.
Gris is available today on PC and the Nintendo Switch.