Gris is a puzzle platformer that tells the story about the five stages of grief. We’ve seen plenty of great games tackle the puzzle platformer genre, we’ve also seen some games take on the idea of the grieving process (such as RiME), and now we have Gris which attempts the same. But does Gris manage to get the balance of fun gameplay and powerful storytelling just right?
Gris Visuals and Storytelling
From the moment you load Gris up, you know that visually you’ll be in for something special. The one thing most people notice about this game is its art style, which is why I wanted to bring it up first. It’s absolutely beautiful, but at the same time, its use of colour is very clever and well thought out.
You might be wondering why I grouped Gris’ visuals and storytelling together in one group. That’s because Gris’ entire storytelling is done visually. There’s no dialogue, there’s no voice acting, there’s only fragments of what the game is really about scattered throughout the game. As I mentioned earlier, the game’s main topic is grief and its five stages, and ultimately Gris is a visual representation of those stages.
Early in the game, there’s very little colour, and very little you can do in terms of abilities. As you move through the different stages, the representing colours are added to the game, not only adding more flair to the scenery, but also adding more to the gameplay. It’s very cleverly done and there are some truly jaw-dropping moments when more colour is added.
Of course, it’s not just pretty pictures and colours here, there is a very powerful story told. You’re only given bits and pieces of what is going on, but I do wish the story was more fleshed out. Just a little more context would have been great, and more insight would have made it easier to really connect and sympathise with the main character. If you manage to unlock certain secrets, more will be revealed to you, but I still wish for more. That being said, I still think there’s just enough to go on, and you’ll still feel the emotion this game is trying to evoke.
Games like this that focus so much on their narrative can sometimes be a bit light on the gameplay. Games like Celeste are the obvious exceptions, and while Gris doesn’t even come close to the gamplay of Celeste, I still had a very good time with it.
Unlike Celeste though, you actually cannot die in Gris. It takes the approach of being stress-free and just enjoying the game without too much consequence. You might think this makes the game boring and easy. Yes, it is easy, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I was still having.
As you progress and go through the different stages, you’ll learn new abilities to overcome new challenges. That might sound pretty standard but Gris manages to keep things fresh by throwing new ideas at you constantly. Nothing ever feels like it drags on, and the new ideas are implemented well before you eventually move on.
Like I said with the story, I just wish the gameplay and the creative ideas were more fleshed out. My main gripe is that because the game is so short, there’s simply not enough time for the gameplay and ideas to really be expand upon.
For example with Celeste, whenever a new mechanic or idea is incorporated, there’s plenty of platforming challenges that uses it and does it in so many different ways. Gris is just unable to do this because of the game’s length. Don’t get me wrong, I really did have fun with the actual gameplay, but I just wanted more!
Gris Review Summary
Gris is a game that does a great job of integrating unique visuals with a powerful story. The two aspects go hand-in-hand and is one of the major highlights of the game. The gameplay was better than expected, full of fun and creative ideas that left me wanting more.
But me ‘wanting more’ was the main criticism of Gris. The game was far too short to really expand upon both the great storytelling and fun gameplay. If the game was twice the length, the story could have given us enough to connect with it even more. But maybe more importantly, the gameplay and all the different mechanics could have been explored even further, and would’ve taken this game to even great heights.