Restore color and life to the world in a surreal, beautiful platformer.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch
MonsterVine was provided with a PC code for review.
From its opening moments, the art style used in Gris stands out, since everything in it looks like a watercolor painting. The game begins with the main character singing from the hand of a giant statue, when she suddenly loses her voice and collapses. The statue breaks, the girl falls, and gameplay begins in a monochrome world filled with crumbling ruins, all devoid of color.
That doesn’t last, however. As you progress through Gris, you’ll slowly restore colors to the world. With each color added, the world comes to life, and soon you find yourself exploring gorgeous watercolor environments entirely removed from the simple black-and-white world it starts as.
Gris is a 2D puzzle-platformer with a fairly linear progression—while you’ll often reach a point where you have multiple places to go, I never found myself getting lost. Most parts feature a central area with a puzzle you need to solve, and then several branching paths so you can find what you need to solve it. Each area naturally leads to the next until you end up where you need to be, with the exception of a few optional challenges if you check every area.
Your basic goal is to find stars that, at certain points in the world, can be assembled into constellations and serve as paths for you to progress to new areas. Sometimes, you’ll also be granted new abilities to help you proceed. At the beginning, you can’t do anything except run and jump, but as you gain new skills, you’ll be able to cross obstacles to reach the next part of the world. There are a few tricky platforming sections, especially if you attempt the optional challenges, as well as an antagonistic force that shows up from time to time, but the game mostly focuses on its atmosphere through beautiful visuals and music. The world is strange and surreal, which creates a sense of wonder as you travel through it, almost like you’re moving through a fairytale. It only takes a few hours to beat, but its brevity helps keep it feeling fresh both in terms of gameplay and discovery.
According to the official description, Gris is about a journey through sorrow as the main character deals with a painful experience. I didn’t read that before I played, so I interpreted the game in a much more literal way. But I think both interpretations work. Whether you see Gris as a surreal story about restoring a magical world or a symbolic story about overcoming grief, it’s an enchanting experience for the few hours you’ll take to reach its conclusion.
The Final Word
Gris is a relaxing, artistic experience that emphasizes its atmosphere over its gameplay. While it only lasts a few hours, fans of surreal worlds and symbolic storytelling should find it to be an enjoyable journey.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good