Reviews - Updated on April 10, 2022

If beauty doesn’t save the world, maybe it will save video games. So, in any case, I want to think after meeting with Gris, the debut project of the Spanish Nomada Studio. Personally, it’s hard for me to remain objective and restrain emotions, so I’ll start right away with the author’s, exclusively subjective statement: after the release of Gris, I propose to consider the long-standing dispute about whether games can be art, closed. Yes, they can, Nomada employees prove.

From our video preview, you already know that this is the most beautiful game in the world. Or rather, like this: there were immensely beautiful creations before (remember, for example, Child of Light), but in Gris this beauty of watercolors, thin lines, as well as games with color and panorama is closest to what can be called art – as if we we see a collection of paintings by some watercolor Imagists, which a week ago hung in a Parisian gallery, and now come to life on our screens. In this sense, only 11-11: Memories Retold can partly be compared with it.

It is useless to paint for a long time – even without me you can see everything perfectly both from the trailers and from the wonderful preview of Katerina Krasnopolskaya. And you hear. Magical piano modulations and generally very expressive, dot-changing music in Gris is as important as the visuals. They work well together, complementing each other to immerse us – no, not in a trance, but in the atmosphere of a dramatic, almost tragic (but with the right to hope) journey of a girl who has lost her voice through the ruins of her own universe.

sad journey

The message about a naive girl, “locked in her own world because of the pain that enveloped her in reality,” you yourself will read in the description on Steam. But it has few specifics. And it is precisely this uncertainty (especially at first) of the history of Gris that someone might want to reproach the authors. Gris game review

Everything ingenious is simple?

The girl sings on a huge stone hand, then suddenly loses her voice, the statue of an unknown woman collapses, the girl falls down, gets up and slowly wanders along the monochrome, faded earth. Shoulders are down, she can’t run, and when we press the space bar, waiting for her to at least jump, she, on the contrary, falls to the ground. Strongly, emotionally, conceptually? Yes. A mood of grief is immediately created – you understand that in this game more than once or twice goosebumps will run through your skin.

But what’s next? A lonely sad girl in a triangular dress runs through the deadly beautiful and conceptually built, but lifeless locations, slides down the hills for a long time and falls lower and lower. What is it? A variation on Journey?

Mood color – blue

Partly yes, but then a more classic platformer begins, in which, if desired, you can also find references to other games. The girl jumps, solves riddles and gains new abilities. Here her dress turns into a cobblestone – so you can hide from the gusts of an unknown storm or break fragile ceilings in a jump. Here she is learning to fly high into the sky, bouncing, like on a springboard, on red butterflies. It is already swimming briskly in the water, now with the help of yellow butterflies it illuminates the darkness, tearing out the outlines of walls, columns, stairs and platforms from the blackness.

Finally, it finds a voice and sings so that the flowers open and the same butterflies fly out of there – well, or to jump higher on their petals. In general, nothing complicated, although closer to the finale the situation heats up in every sense and sometimes it becomes difficult to understand what they want from you.

And the main goal is to collect white spheres, with the help of which the heroine activates something somewhere, crosses chasms or unlocks altars with new abilities. In addition, it is these spheres that are needed in order to build a star bridge in the sky, along which the girl is going to return there, upward, to the stone female hand from where she fell. As you progress, this huge sculpture is gradually restored.

Gris game review

Well, isn’t that art?

At the same time, the locations change, acquiring color – red, green, blue, yellow. Each of them gives its own abilities, environment, tasks and atmosphere. In this sense, Gris is full of fantasy and variety. Runs in the midst of green trees give way to flights in the sky or swims in blue waters, and then we run in the pitch darkness, where Limbo immediately comes to mind.

Repetition in your own way

Of course, we have already seen a lot somewhere – there is the creation of our own “clones” (in this case, with the help of freezing), and exercises with gravity, and swims in the water. But who said it’s bad? Gris in this case resembles a collection of ideas presented with its own atmosphere and style.

In any case, everything is beautiful, conceptual and surreal. So much so that at some point the world turns upside down – literally: we run upside down. And everything is like a fairy tale. The girl, who is clearly in trouble, is helped by fireflies, small robots, or stones on legs, which she feeds with apples, large turtles. And a huge black swallow is trying to interfere, which then turns into a black moray eel.

The art of metaphor

However, here again the question may arise: why all these surreal platform exercises and puzzles? But do works of art have to chew everything and put it on the shelves? But leaving hints and symbols, metaphors, forcing us to think and think, interpret, is quite.Gris game review

This bird in various forms constantly pursues the heroine.

And in Gris, in fact, these hints are enough. The girl, who, as we already understood at the very beginning and we know from the description, closed herself in her own world because of the grief that befell her, the whole game returns the color to the monochrome world, looks for the way up, home, and tries to collect that destroyed female stone figure from fragments from which she fell. In addition, sculptures of this woman are found every now and then in different locations. What else is needed to understand what it is about?

In any case, I want to interpret, and this is already good. For me, this is a story about how a girl tries to piece together herself, her desire to live on, accepting and letting go of what happened. In a broader sense, it is a metaphor for resurrection and overcoming. Another question is that all these metaphors and symbols are not concentrated in an hour-long “walking simulator”, but spread over a three-hour puzzle platformer.

Personally, I had no problems with this. I treated what was happening as watching a smart author’s movie, when you are sitting, trying to understand what is happening, interpreting, being distracted by something, but still waiting for the denouement. And in the end you get such a catharsis that turns everything upside down and makes you feel like an old sentimental idiot who, swallowing tears, stares at the final credits for a long time.

Can you imagine how hard it is to wear such a dress?

***

Like any work of art, Gris tries to evoke a soulful, even spiritual, if you like, response from the public with the help of expressive forms. It caused me. The last time I experienced such emotions from the game, perhaps, only in the finale of the first season of The Walking Dead. Well, maybe also in Life is Strange. In the same Steam, almost all reviews are also designed in the style of “tears and snot”. But these are exceptionally bright emotions. In this sense, Gris can be recommended as art therapy for depressed people. She proves that in any situation you can collect yourself, stand up, overcome and move on – even with tears in your eyes …

Pros: very emotional story full of symbols and metaphors; varied gameplay with interesting abilities of the heroine; ingenious audiovisual content.

Cons: puzzles and jumping in places look too abstract from the emotional component of the story.

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