A story told through colours and music, GRIS might have been one of the most heavily art-inspired titles of 2018, but was it as good to play as it was to look at?

A unique premise masquerading as a beautiful-looking game world, GRIS was truly a surprise on launch, with an in-built emotional journey that players can’t help but feel invested in. But was it all it could have been?

What is GRIS?

The launch title for the Barcelona-based Nomada Studios, the idea of GRIS was born from the studio’s developers wishing to make something entirely different from the AAA titles that launched their careers, with local artist Conrad Roset serving as the artistic and style inspiration for this title.

In the world of indie development, ‘games as art’ is bandied about a lot for just about any title that has a unique premise or daring design streak. But when it comes to GRIS, the stylistic choices and gameplay of the title were directly inspired by the visual identity of Roset, making it more worthy of the banner than many other indie hits.

You play as the namesake of the game, a girl named Gris, who awakens to the stone ruins of a colourless world. With very little introduction and not much by way of storytelling, you’re thrown into this stark landscape and given freedom to learn and understand the games controls organically, rather than via tutorials or active guidance.

Gris 1

How do you play GRIS?

Part platformer and part open-ended exploration, the gameplay of GRIS will be familiar to players of more old-school game genres, with a focus on simplistic climbing and the occasional puzzle to keep gameplay fresh. Each unique level or space requires the evolution of skills or development of new gameplay mechanics to overcome.

As more and more complex gameplay comes into play, from the use of changing environments to areas where you’re quite literally flipped on your head, you soon find yourself even more immersed in the unique and ever-changing world, with progression making such a difference to the landscape that you often find yourself trying to head back to past areas to see how they’ve changed.

It’s no mistake that many players have compared the more exploration and connection-building type of gameplay to previous beloved title Journey, because this is another title where it truly feels like you’re progressing in order to learn more about the story as opposed to for any other sense of accomplishment.

Gris 2

What makes GRIS unique?

One of the main things that appeals to the indie audience when it comes to GRIS is its complete and utter dedication to all things beautiful. There’s barely a moment that passes in the game where something visually stunning isn’t happening, with something new and different around every corner to invest your attention in.

Add to that a wonderfully complex and well-designed soundtrack by Berlinist, that’s sure to be at the top of many player’s Spotify lists, and you’ve soon created the perfect storm of atmosphere that can leave your hair standing on end during certain segments of the average playthrough.

While GRIS doesn’t really do anything new when it comes to its platform-style and puzzle-heavy gameplay, at its heart it does offer a truly unique experience. It’s difficult to not feel some sort of emotional connection when playing or watching the title, from heart-wrenching chase sequences to mournful scenes that you can’t help but be drawn in to.

Gris 3

Should you buy GRIS?

While there are many good points to the title, the speed of gameplay is probably one of my least favourite parts of the game. GRIS gets more and more slow-paced as you travel onward, which may be a stylistic choice by the developers but can sometimes err on the side of frustrating.

While for some this slowing progression might naturally feel like a lead-up to the endpoint of the title, for others the lack of signposting and difficulty in progression can often feel a little pointless. Add in a small to medium dose of backtracking, and the title may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

GRIS is, in its essence, an experience as much as it is a game to pick up and play – and seeing everything for the first time is what makes each moment feel that bit more special. Because of this, and despite the short run time of the game, replayability just isn’t as feasible as with other titles. It’s near-impossible to catch that same magic twice.

However, if you have a love for indie gems that can make you actively feel something for a complete abstract character, and you love the aesthetics of GRIS as a whole, then this title is absolutely worth adding to your collection – for the visuals alone.

There’s something highly satisfying about the way the world is built, and the interactions your character, Gris, has with every object and item is filled with nuance and careful game design. Combine that was the stellar soundtrack, and you’ll find yourself disappointed that you can’t experience the game once more with fresh eyes.

GRIS is available now for the Switch, PC and MacOS.



Author's rating

Overall rating

The good
  • One of the most beautiful-looking games on the market to date
  • A unique premise and subtle storytelling that requires true investment to comprehend
  • Excellent choice of soundtrack that brings atmosphere and appeals to the game
The bad
  • A short experience with little replayability overall
  • Tried and true platforming and puzzle-solving gameplay formulas with little new to add
  • Lack of signposting in some difficult sections can be frustrating and result in backtracking
About author

Harriet Swartout-Phipson

Creative Digital Copywriter by day, Indie game fan by night. Give me a rogue-like, simulator or RPG to play and I'm happy.

  • Drunkfu1

    4th March 2019

    I recall seeing this advertised on the last GDQ, it looked very interesting.


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