This year has been remarkable for indie game developers as numerous highly favoured titles such as Celeste, Dead Cells, Moonlighter, and Northgard left us with many memorable experiences. With the end of the year approaching, it seems that we have saved the best for last. Based in Barcelona, Nomada Studio is the culmination of exceptional talent who have banded together with the realization that their unique artistic style will excite the gaming community like never before. Their hard work and determination resulted in the recent release of their first title, an artistic masterpiece known as GRIS.
A Picture Tells A Thousand Words
GRIS tells the story of a young girl who has experienced a life-changing event that has caused her to be trapped within her own world. It is this journey of self-discovery and overcoming the toils presented before her will she be able to stand firm upon solid ground and have her voice heard. Words can only have a varied amount of meanings, whereas images can convey infinite potential theories and meanings. Images present an emotional connection to every viewer and that is why GRIS begins as a monochromatic canvas, waiting for the player to help our character bring life, beauty, and colour to it, regardless of what terrible occurrence took place.
There are numerous themes present within GRIS, the most apparent being the struggle of overcoming the darkness, gaining the courage and strength to move forward, persevering through an emotional journey, the power of friendship, and to regain your voice within the world. The introduction illustrates Gris in a state of tranquility while being held in comfort by the hand of a large statue until she is awoken from her slumber and begins to sing, perhaps knowing of the impending strike that will take place. Her voice is then silenced and her world is fractured, sending her crashing to the depths of her own grief. This peaceful and colourful world falls apart and it is up to the player to help Gris through this emotional undertaking in order to overcome this tragedy that has befallen her. She will take the necessary steps to conquer the darkness that is projected at her through the manifestation of storms and a giant bird that operate as her own barriers to keep her distant from the truth of the realization that peace can be reestablished after suffering a tragic encounter. We are never told specifically what loss Gris is recovering from, but that is the beauty of experiencing GRIS, which leaves the interpretation up to the player.
A World Brought To Life Through Colour
GRIS offers a watercolour canvas art style that is visually the most impressive presentation to be witnessed this past year. To say it is simply beautiful does not give it the appreciation it deserves and only through experiencing it from start to finish can players observe the initial barren canvas be brought to life through the addition of new colours as the story progresses. Witnessing this continual transition immerses you within the imaginative world that Gris explores as it also adds new environmental elements and unlocks new areas to explore.
Unlocking the colour green creates a lush environment filled with various trees and shrubbery that needs to be traversed to attain the orbs needed to grant access to the next area. The platforming experience is truly showcased at this point within GRIS as you will need to jump from one tree-based platform to another. While some platforming sequences offer a timed presence, others mimic your movements and appear and disappear as you jump, creating a more strategic approach to overcome the obstacles set before you. GRIS excels at rewarding the player with new gameplay mechanics as each new colour is discovered and new areas are unlocked.
One Dress To Rule Them All
GRIS requires players to discover and acquire orbs that are situated throughout the world by completing puzzles, which unlock a constellation-like path for the player to gain entry to the next environment. Gameplay progression also rewards the player with new skills that are needed to overcome new obstacles. We first acquire the skill that transforms Gris’ dress into a weighted cube that is utilized to break the ground in weakened areas and create platforms within frozen environments to reach greater heights.
Knowing how to complete the majority of puzzles are visibly noticeable, but it is the steps needed to reach completion that has the player guessing for a few moments. The mechanics within each puzzle are consistent and balanced perfectly, each success resulting in a rewarding experience. Additional puzzles may at first appear difficult, but it is the careful attention to detail and proper utilization of new skills such as gliding over platforms and swimming up waterfalls that will quickly lead to solving them. The height of perfection with regards to level design in GRIS is witnessed toward the end of its experience where Nomada Studio definitely thought outside of the box to deliver an impressive and unforgettable experience. When you think you cannot be impressed anymore, new mechanics are introduced to enhance the gameplay tenfold.
Soundtrack Of Life
A game absent of any dialogue or text will rely heavily on the audio to help produce an emotional connection with the player and that is the case with GRIS. The atmosphere soundtrack produced by Berlinist is a work of art on its own regard, providing a soothing yet powerful performance. The discovery of ambient sounds such as birds chirping as you walk by helps add elements to the overall immersive experience, but the developer’s attention to detail is also recognized when falling in water and the audio volume is momentarily reduced as you are submerged.
GRIS is not a platforming game, but instead an experience that excels at possessing brilliance through aesthetic beauty, a tranquil atmosphere, a soothing soundtrack, and memorable gameplay mechanics. It will also leave you interpreting the many themes touched upon throughout Gris’ journey to restoring order within her own world. Even thought there is no dialogue present, powerful statements are continuously made that will warrant an emotional response and result in creating a memorable and lasting effect on every player. GRIS comes highly recommended, not because of its a visual masterpiece, but because it possesses many elements that have a hidden meaning that is waiting to be discovered.
- Visual watercolour masterpiece
- Exceptional level design
- Creativity at its finest
- Impressive soundtrack
- Perfect variety of gameplay mechanics
- An extremely enjoyable experience