It is almost improbable not being able to comprehend something of such splendour, something which is teeming with manifold shades of colour vividly conceiving a world of decadence and decay that is slowly restored and brought to life. An adventure unfolds, a powerful philosophy communicated and a memorable fable told through colours and visual allegory. GRIS is not simply a game but an experience to be had. It is forged to immerse you into a prepossessing journey to a mystical landscape from a midnight dream.
Gris is a young woman lost in her own world. One day she wakes up in the palm of a massive statue listening to her own warble. Soon after, she loses her voice, the statue crumbles bringing her to the bottom of a colourless world. As I assumed control of the woman grappling with grief, she mustered all her strength, hoisted herself and began to trudge having resolved to conquer the overbearing sorrow. After an indefinite length of plodding through the achromatic plane Gris was able to recover from the latent despair and becomes able to run. With the overhang of her mantle flapping slightly I navigated her across the disturbing whiteness with serious determination, hoping for an ending that I could treasure for years to come.
Using symbolism and visual allegory, GRIS uniquely manifests a world that has been torn apart and laid waste to. There is no dialogue or wordplay in the game to tell the narrative and its absence effectively makes space for the administration of imagery as the sole mode of conveying the underlying meaning of the story. GRIS’s narrative is open to interpretation. So, what you may read here may not suit your fancy and in fact, may be quite the opposite.
When I arrived upon the shattered sculptures of the cruel white plane I was able to perceive the mental state of the pitiful young woman featuring as the protagonist. I felt a sharp pang in my heart, being quite able to relate to the condition of the lonely young girl who may have succumbed to the difficulties of life and fallen in the abyss of eternal gloom and sorrow much like the cracked statues serving as an allegorical representation of her state of mind. This is a story about her journey to seek redemption and recover from the cycle of despair and devastation.
GRIS’s primary focus is not the development of a clutter of overcomplicated gameplay mechanics teamed up with button-mashing combat. In fact, it is quite opposed to mainstream puzzle-platformers. Its anti-aggressive approach is at the heart of its success. Gris, unlike characters in other platformers, cannot die. It is almost as if the game is programmed to shield the character from any harm. It further goes on to create a world that is devoid of redundant hostilities that would muddle the tranquillity of the scenic artistry.
GRIS adopts an exquisite art style for gameplay, cutscenes and for building a seamless world which coruscates with aesthetic appeal.
I need to confess rather reluctantly that the picturesque terrains and the artwork adorning the background exacerbated my habit of screenshotting every three seconds to quite an extent but that, nevertheless, did not interfere with my equilibrium for under no circumstance was I distracted even for a moment. The landscape in GRIS is swarming with queer creatures and life forms and the scenic pulchritude of the thriving wildlife irresistibly tempts one to reach into the computer screen and enter the world itself if it were possible. Its quality and magnitude are ineffable and even if I were to try and arrange them into words, the real visual experience will far outstrip the individual syllables. When Gris passes by the roaming critters, they either bury into the ground or cower away inside their carapace.
The game adopts an exquisite art style for gameplay, cutscenes and for building a seamless world which coruscates with aesthetic appeal. It creates an atmosphere which reflects both the sorrow of the young girl and her moments of joy in the trial for recovery. It fills you with mixed emotions.
GRIS’s progression system is one that involves collecting minuscule orbs which will follow the protagonist around. In order to proceed, a specified number of orbs need to be accumulated and collecting them would entail going through numerous puzzles but none too hard. As I collected the glowing orbs and reached the site of the fallen statue Gris walked into the shattered palm and began to levitate filling her world with red. In similar instances, she would continue to paint her world with numerous colours, one at a time — Green, Blue, Yellow. With her world dyed red, I drove Gris to the checkpoint where the floating orbs snapped into the sky forming a constellation which I conjectured was incomplete and fulfilling it would mean getting closer to the end game. Later on, I would go on to find that the orbs are also required to proceed to the following stage, even though the stages are not particularly mentioned or highlighted. These orbs would sometimes connect and form bridges for Gris to walk on.
As the surroundings began to change shape, I encountered a dust storm which knocked Gris back preventing her from progressing. I also learned to use one of her powers where she turns her mantle into a heavy block to weigh down on fractured floors. Using that I was able to surpass the evil gales of swirling dust. In certain occasions, I was required to employ the principles of physics to use the ability as leverage to activate certain objects which would open certain pathways or switch on certain rotating platforms.
GRIS employs the art of subtle allusion to communicate the requisites that need to be performed in order to attain a desired goal or for progressing. In a similar manner, Half-Life 2 had done the same thing 14 years ago. To put it simply, at one juncture the camera slightly focuses on a creature munching away on a piece of apple. The next moment when I made Gris hop on top of the square trees I noticed an apple hanging from the branch. I processed the information and it instantly clicked. I deduced that the apples hanging from the trees would have to do something with the little creature below and since there was nowhere else to go it must be the only thing that could potentially trigger an event to clear a passage. I made Gris perform a straight jump and made her morph her mantle into a block in mid-air and once the heavy thing struck the tree, the apple dropped. The creature came out of hiding and began to devour it and with much glee, I rejoiced and appreciated the adorable act. And once I had consecutively fed it a few more fruits I managed to befriend it. It would serve as a trusty companion for the next few minutes and with similar powers in possession as Gris herself, the creature could be effectively used to surpass the challenges that lay ahead.
As I crossed through the numerous levels Gris came upon the foot of broken structures which represented her anguish. And with much boldness, she struggled and fought against the subduing woe and painted her world and I marvelled at the spectacle as the different shades of colour collided in unison creating an illusory prismatic effect.
The mellifluous harmony is at the pinnacle of musical mastery. It is soothing and contemplative. It binds the soul to the cosmos and brings peace to the mind, yet when the situation changes the melody becomes neurotic and the transition blends in brilliantly with the flow of music. One moment it is calm and serene the next moment when the storm arrives it changes swiftly to a turbulent note alerting the player that he has to take action before being knocked back by the gale.
It is impossible to communicate in exact details the intricacies of the level design as they change quite rapidly with more colours unlocked but it never disturbs the flow of serenity. It is a wonder to the beholder and a talking picture to an artist. The landscape and the puzzles change from running up and down the stairs to diving underwater to using ice illusions to unlock contraptions used for confining orbs to entering a topsy-turvy symmetrical plane to walking on mirage-like ephemeral structures which only remain visible and traversable when illuminated.
In GRIS, there are no real threats. Even the instances where the protagonist shows signs of recovery, she encounters a giant transforming bird possibly made of the darkness in her mind which torments her momentarily willing to bend her to its will. This bird’s scream pushes Gris back much like the storm and in certain parts, this could be used to an advantage to provide momentum to Gris’s double jump ability and sail through the air if the gaps in the floor are too big to cross. In one instance Gris’s darkness chases her in the form of a snake and the player has to keep hitting space to get away from it. However, disappointingly even if the player leaves the keyboard untouched she would manage to get away from it without any harm.
Gris, over the course of time, learns to overcome her pain. She regains her voice and her ability to sing makes the flowers and trees in the surrounding bloom often releasing small red birds used to propel upwards.
Although there is not much to appreciate the gameplay, GRIS communicates the idea of despondency and loneliness allegorically via an environment which gleams with hope and despair.
When I reached the last section I watched in much agony and repugnance as Gris’s beautiful world was devasted by the darkness in her head. All hope seemed to be lost. But even in the moments of intense difficulty, there was always a glimmer of hope which kept her going. As she swam her way onto the land and dragged herself to the shattered palm of the statue, I discerned that the inevitable was nigh. I pressed and held ‘L’ and Gris began to fill her world with the pleasant melody and repair the statue but the overbearing forces of darkness continued to constrain her. She was being slowly consumed by darkness. But she refused to give up and continued to sing until her breath gave out and she was finally pulled back into her miseries. When everything went dark and all hope seemed to be lost, the statue came to life and began to ward off the darkness with her sweet singing. Gris emerged triumphant in the face of miseries and difficulties. Instead of letting her feelings incapacitate her, she toiled to restore happiness in her life.
GRIS is a magnificent game which highlights the positive and negative sides of the human thinking process. It deals with depressive thoughts and miseries which shackle people and refrain them from carrying on with life. It is a wonderful story about a woman coming out of the cycle of despair and helplessness. It is a lesson which teaches us that hope is the driving force of the human psyche and that only the concept of happiness finds root in one’s mind, that grief will only arise if we harbour thoughts that torment and overwhelm us. Although there is not much to appreciate the gameplay, GRIS communicates the feelings of despondency and loneliness allegorically via its environment which gleams with hope and despair.