I have a thing for games that are beautiful. I’m sure many people do, but I just absolutely love that artistic beauty that some games can perfectly capture. Naturally, GRIS caught my eye thanks to its lovely watercolor art. However, there has to be something beyond this beauty that really elevates the game. Something that takes it from “just pretty” to amazing. So I dove in to see if GRIS had that extra something necessary.
To call GRIS beautiful is an understatement, and every step of the journey I kept coming back to this. Normally I think of graphics at the end of a review, but for GRIS they are front and center. The entire time I played the game I was taking in the simply breathtaking artwork, the lovely watercolor painting style, the gorgeous animations. I genuinely couldn’t believe that a game could really look this good. This is all combined with a lovely soundtrack, fitting each theme and world perfectly. From quiet piano pieces to dramatic choirs and orchestras, there’s a lot to love in this presentation.
That Doesn’t Look Good
When it comes to gameplay, GRIS is a pretty basic 2D platformer. At first, all you can really do is run from left to right (or right to left) and jump. Sometimes you’ll get to slopes and slide down them, making for some fun fast-paced segments. As you advance you’ll collect little stars that can make bridges for you at specific points in the world. Most of the game involves collecting enough of these stars so you can continue onto the next section, spending them to make what looks like a light bridge into the clouds. This isn’t a Metroidvania or anything; there’s always a set route and you’re almost always going to follow the same path every time you play the game. Sometimes you’ll have an option between a couple of different areas, but each one is just a small puzzle to collect a star and then you move the other way.
Each time you complete a level you’re rewarded with a new ability. By the end of the game, you’ll be able to double jump, glide, dive underwater, and turn into a heavy floor-smashing cube that I’ve come to affectionally call “Big GRIS.” You’ll use these abilities to solve simple puzzles. I really do mean simple, as none of the puzzles in GRIS really took me more than a few minutes to figure out. It’s things like smashing through specific floors, performing actions that a buddy will copy, and timing your jumps. And there’s no price for failure. In fact, I’m not particularly sure you even can die or get a game over but it’s not like GRIS was ever hard enough to really challenge me.
It does take some of the teeth away from later scenes. One part has you running away from giant inky monsters that are quite interested in consuming you. However, on the rare chance, I was caught the main character would always just sort of stumble out of danger at the last moment. What should be an intense chase scene, set to dramatic music and fast-paced gameplay, instead felt like I could put down the controller and watch the whole thing play out with no interaction from me. That’s not to say these segments were bad, I still enjoyed getting away from these creatures, just it was pretty obvious that what actions I took didn’t matter at all.
Please Meet Big GRIS, They Are My Friend
While some hilariously easy chase sequences are kind of annoying, bugs are a bigger problem. Several times my progress in GRIS was halted because cutscenes failed to trigger properly. The main character would run to some pre-determined point, then stand there, staring off into the distance blankly. It was frustrating, but the good news is that I never lost more than a few minutes of progress when this happened.
I really wanted these cutscenes to trigger because I really enjoyed GRIS‘ story. Told without any words, a lot of it is really up to the player’s interpretation using symbolism. The game seems to focus around the five stages of grief, though what exactly it’s over is really up to you. It’s one of those games you can easily spend days trying to solve the mystery of, and players who are really into that sort of thing should find something well worth analyzing here.
What I expected from GRIS was a solid, beautiful, platformer that could occupy a few hours of my time. What I got from GRIS was quite close to that, but somehow more beautiful than I could have ever considered or expected. If you want to see just how artistic games can get, or if you’re like me and just need a few hours occupied by beauty and platforming, then it’s hard to go wrong with GRIS.
GRIS review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a Standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.