Published on December 26th, 2018 | by Hugh Mitchell
Gris Nintendo Switch Review
Summary: Gris is a visually stunning 2D platformer with decent gameplay mechanics and a fantastic soundtrack.
When I’m in the process of playing a game for review, I make a habit of taking screenshots of significant moments that made an impact on my experience. Interesting characters, beautiful backgrounds, challenging puzzles, fun gameplay moments – it all gets captured to remind me of the special moments when I’m writing the review. Flicking through the screenshots I took for Gris is like a watching a slideshow of the game being played, because every second of the game feels like it is worth capturing.
If I were to describe Gris for a Wikipedia article, I’d say that Gris is a 2D platformer with some light puzzle elements and a hand painted, watercolour visual aesthetic. But if I were describing Gris to a friend, I’d simply tell them that Gris is pretty much a Studio Ghibli film in the form of a 2D platformer. A bold statement perhaps, but ten minutes with Gris would see the claim justified.
As you might expect from the above description, the most immediately captivating aspect of Gris is its visual aesthetic and the way it uses an astounding visual design to tell its story. The game follows the adventure of a young girl that loses her voice and her journey across a strange land devoid of colour in order to find it. As you travel across these vast, surreal, Dhali-esque landscapes, you will eventually return new colours to the land. Restoring these colours fills in previously unseen details in the environment and leads to new areas to explore.
Colour is at the forefront of Gris’ visual aesthetic and the game is lush with gorgeous water colour designs for both the characters and the areas you’ll be exploring. The numerous and varied landscapes are constructed using a combination of stark edges with hand drawn details and multiple layers in the foreground and background to produce vivid, detailed areas that beg to be explored. There’s also some impressive cinematography on display with the camera subtly zooming in and out at key moments to create a staggering sense of space.
Adding to this grandiose sense of space and adventure is a fantastic orchestral soundtrack. Orchestrated movements underpin emotional moments in the game’s narrative and frantic gameplay sections are amplified with thundering, cacophonous background music that perfectly pairs with the gameplay.
An often underrated, yet essential part of a game’s visual design is in the way its world and characters animate – and much like many of Studio Ghibli’s works, Gris is filled with some incredible animation details. Everything from the way the wind whips across the protagonists dress as she gets buffeted by winds, to the immaculately detailed animation on enemy characters is truly superb and really leaves a lasting impression.
It’s often the case with indie games that a strong visual design can result in less than impressive gameplay – not by design, but simply due to the division of limited resources that Indie studios have available. This is not the case with Gris. As you return colour to the world, you’ll acquire new abilities and encounter new puzzles on which to use them. Many of these abilities are fundamentally typical to 2D platformers, but Gris’ excellent animations and unique stylings make them feel fresh and exciting to use. None of the mainline puzzles were particularly difficult, but they put up enough of a challenge to be entertaining and satisfying to complete.
The real challenge lies in tracking down and collecting the numerous hidden orbs scattered throughout each area. Finding all of these orbs requires a keen eye and proficient platforming technique. The main story will only take around four hours to complete and the only incentive towards replayability is tracking down these hidden collectibles.
Gris is a masterclass in aesthetic design in games. The vibrant watercolour visuals, the astounding animation quality, the impressive attention to detail and the gorgeous landscapes all combine to produce a truly breathtaking experience. The gameplay isn’t revolutionary, but it is satisfying and offers more than simply a means of delivering the fantastic visuals and terrific soundtrack. Do yourself a favour and play Gris on the biggest screen you can find and let the magic wash through your soil.