Playing through living art
Struggling through pain to recolor your world
Developed by Nomada Studio
Rated E for Everyone
Available on Nintendo Switch and PC
The weekend before finals, the day after its release, I sat down in my floor’s main lounge and played through GRIS. Not to be overly romantic about the game, but while the credits rolled by, I felt like I had awoken from a dream. GRIS is a watercolor-inspired platformer, tracing your character, Gris’s, struggle with pain. Developed by Nomada Studio, GRIS pulls you on a three-hour-long journey through a fantastical and gorgeously rendered world. You navigate a variety of scenes, from (mostly) abandoned ruins of civilizations to underwater caverns, all the while accompanied by a splendor of phantasmal music.
The art is beautiful. Awash in ink and watercolor splashes, the game puts you in a living piece of art. Every shot, whether of struggling to withstand violent gusts or sliding down a hill, feels deliberately composed — like each action of yours completes some art piece. But what I found most charming about the game is that it does feel like living art. You do not pass through a still world unnoticed. Instead, small details — like the rock crabs that retreat into their shells as you pass — prove your existence is recognized. You activate the world. Each level is chock-full of small environmental interactions that bring this enchanting world to life. Furthermore, the fantasy and art of the world are integrated into level design and platform mechanics, proving the world is more than a beautiful spectacle.
The world you traverse follows the story of Gris learning to reclaim colors in her life. Beginning in a black and white world, Gris stumbles, barely able to stand — every couple of steps, she collapses. But slowly, Gris gains (or perhaps regains) her ability to move forward: to persist through difficult winds, to reach higher than before, to sing once again. The mechanics work well within the metaphor of overcoming grief and pain. But the environment also lovingly eggs her on. Perhaps the world has always cared for her? It may just take strength and time to see it. It’s a simple story, but a fulfilling one to play through.
A meltingly gorgeous and captivating piece of art, GRIS is a wonderful display of how beauty can move both audiovisually and mechanically in games.