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Video Game Review: GRIS (2018)

Title: GRIS

By: Nomada Studio (developer), Devolver Digital (publisher).

Genre: Platform-Adventure

Key Creators: Conrad Roset (Artist), Adrián Cuevas (Programmer)

Grade: A+

In a Nutshell: You are Gris, a woman who wakes up on the crumbling hand of a statue. Shortly after singing a bit, the hand crumbles and she is unable to sing anymore. After falling into a monochromatic world, you set out to restore color and recover your voice. If you’re thinking that’s pretty basic, you’re not wrong. This game doesn’t give much context, it is simple but doesn’t need to be complex.

The Critique:

First, it should be noted that I’m a fan of basically everything that Devolver Digital puts out to the point it could almost be considered a bias. While not everything they publish is amazing, a huge number of their games are either hits or just plain high quality games. This is no exception. This game is wildly simple, but it revels in that simplicity and executes it well. It’s a platformer, and you should expect to just be hopping from point A to B with some basic puzzles. However, those platforms work well, anything that involves timing feels natural instead of pressured. It had this effect where as long as you're moving at a natural speed, the platforms will appear/disappear just on time in a weirdly satisfying way.

However, the main attractions and strengths of this game are the visuals and the mood/atmosphere. The game is visually stunning and is incredible at telegraphing meaning and emotion without using a single word. Everything from the environment to the platforms to the main antagonist are mesmerizing and I feel a huge amount of my enjoyment of this game came from simply marveling at them.

Upon release, this game found overwhelmingly positive reception on Steam. Positive reviews range from praising the visuals as a masterpiece to explaining how relaxing of an experience it is. Negative reviews complain that it’s just an experience, not a game in the sense that there is no challenge and there is not even an illusion of choice. However, something of note that a fair number of both the positive and negative reviews seem to agree on is something well summarized by a specific positive review by steam user “InFar”: “More art than game, but it’s ok.”

Gripes are most apparent if you focus on the idea of finding challenge in it. Negative Steam reviews complain that it is easy and that achievements don’t make sense as to how to unlock them. Additionally, there are a few collectible “mementos” hidden through each level of the game that unlocks an extra cinematic if all are collected. In my own experience, I felt that thinking about these as I played mostly just detracted from enjoying the experience of the art, atmosphere, and general feel of the game as I worried if I was missing something because I didn’t see a hidden panel somewhere. I enjoyed it more when I stopped thinking about gathering them at all. For those who want to have something that you have to go out of your way for, this exists, but I think it’s far from playing on the strengths of this game.

A negative review by steam user “Phatique” actually summarizes the game well: “Maybe a cool game if you like to hold in rightbutton and look at animations.”

Personally, I think that’s okay. I did enjoy holding the button and looking at the animations, as the animations are phenomenal. I enjoyed the experience which somehow manages to feel emotional despite its brevity and lack of dialogue.

Buy it Now, Wait for a Sale, or Just Watch a LetsPlay:

To sort of echo some of what I and generally the steam reviews have said, I think whether you want to buy this game will come down to what you’re looking for in a game.

If you like the idea of an experience that has entranced and relaxed so many, I would highly recommend buying it now and giving it a shot.

It could be argued that you don’t get much more out of playing it than watching it, so this may be a game that can be experienced well with a silent LetsPlay if you don’t want to spend the 17 dollars to be the one pressing the button. I still recommend playing it yourself but watching this game would fine too.

If you’re looking for a challenge, maybe just watch a LetsPlay and then go play Dark Souls again.

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