Beautiful and charming are not the two words associated with a game from small developers. Both words are more often directed at giant games with large budgets that are designed to replicate conditions in the real world, from just textures to the quality of lighting. That when a dynamic weather effect arises or changes in the day makes the lighting effects look realistic in various angles, reactions and compliments like this that we will make. But it is not uncommon for us to meet a situation where indie games, with all their creative abilities, actually look stunning in this aspect. Not through the same approach as most AAA games, but offering something unique, beautiful, and strong at the same time.
This is what makes the eyes of many gamers looking at the latest project called GRIS from the publisher – Devolver Digital and developer – Nomada Studio, which contains talents who had worked under the Square Enix and Ubisoft flags. Looks like a living painting, the game whose first trailer was indeed heavy towards this platformer seemed to spoil the eye in the midst of all the simplicity he stretched out. The opportunity to experiment directly with the project that was introduced at the previous Gamescom 2018 finally surfaced. Through the title we selected above, it seems that you already know that we ended up falling in love with him.
Like most games with an “art” approach like this, GRIS is a game that from the beginning is played clearly has a strong parable meaning. That the real story is not from what you see on the screen, it still means the metaphor that slides from every action, consequence, and flowing storyline. Everything is conveyed implicitly, without a truly clear dialogue.
Above the surface, you act as an anonymous female character who at first seems to be trying to restore the colorless world around her, which is also represented by a giant statue of an anonymous woman. In the midst of the confusion, he fell from the giant’s hand. Situations that make it inevitably have to move on to find a definite solution. The woman finally found a special point that allowed her to move to four different directions to gather a point of light that symbolized the star in space.
The star that made him have to pass through the various obstacles of this platform to be the key he believed in, would enable him to reach a higher place and therefore find a solution to restore this sad world. Every star he collects will follow this girl, create a road and bridge if needed, and will return to the constellation that should be when he returns to the center. While walking, he will also find a variety of new strengths that are all pinned on the dress he wears, from turning it into a heavy beam, drifting, swimming quickly, to singing in a beautiful voice.
Beautiful is the first reaction you might make when you see what was achieved by Nomada Studio with GRIS. The visual approach is made so that you feel like you are playing a painting that is now moving interactively with the action you take with an existing keyboard or controller. The details offered are not intended for example to photograph the anatomy of the main character’s body as real as possible, but rather lead to efforts to capture the atmosphere that matches the world he faces. What you find is characters with faces full of detail, attractive color designs, fantastic motion animations, but only moving with feet and hands that are just drawn as a straight line. Something that really fits the world that is so abstract.
We talk about the world which, although supported by a number of different themes, from the forest to ancient ruins has so much space and objects that you will not find in the real world. There are trees with cube-shaped leaves that sometimes can also arise and sink with certain timings, water that floats in space, white lines in the middle of the stage that can twist gravity, to just the design of animals and monsters that you find in it. Obviously from the very beginning you looked at it, GRIS brought you into a world that clearly wanted to represent something. The main character is also slow but sure, along with the travel progress, showing different reactions and colors.
The two thumbs up is of course appropriate to be directed at the sound and music in GRIS which truly captures the emotional side without the dialogue that he wants to inject, while building the right atmosphere to build the mood of play that according to the developer, you must feel at the moment you should. The approach and quality must be given a thumbs up because there are some moments that strangely through the help of music, managed to make us tense, sad, and even creep with fur while standing up against a certain scene. For a game without dialogue and only offering animated gestures and faces as expressions, this is an achievement worth talking about.
If the symbolization and visualization that he is carrying out makes it feel like a work of art, then what about the GRIS gameplay side itself? In the end, it is a simple platformer game with puzzles that only need a little rationalization to complete. At the beginning, GRIS feels like a walking simulator game, where you only have to run and jump over the various paths that exist. But along with the progress of the story, there will be more challenges that require a little work power of your brain.
The girl is slow but sure, will get a new power that will help her through the various obstacles that exist at once, accessing a place that is deeper, higher, or far away. At the beginning, he could turn his dress into a heavy and hard beam. Changing this dress makes it unable to be hit by strong winds for example. You can also make it a cracked floor crusher or just a ballast to make the structure of the building unbalanced or slightly depressed.
Using a little of your brain’s ability to solve existing puzzles while training your muscle memory to access the right capabilities at the right time, GRIS actually also injects side missions where you can collect larger light balls that usually require more complex sequences of actions and solutions. But to solve it, you don’t need to pass it.
GRIS is a beautiful game, no one can deny that. His fantastic presentation side in terms of visuals and audio makes him a charming indie platformer game that is ready to steal anyone’s heart from first sight. That for gamers who can indeed build sympathy or empathy for the main character, it can and does not object to digesting something that is implicit and metaphorical, the attraction will even strengthen at the end. It can lead to an emotional and strong playing experience, even though you end up not clearly capturing the definitive story and message what you really want to offer. Everything is shrouded in beautiful level design and remains challenging at the same time.
But on the other hand, it doesn’t mean this game is perfect. In terms of gameplay, some areas where exploration can be done freely, this game has no landmarks or maps that are really clear about the actual location you have explored before. The decision to make boss battles that have a creepy design with so sweet animation that ends up having no consequences actually eliminates the threat sensation that exists. Nothing feels tense, there is no sensation that you want to protect this girl as a form of caring, which ultimately makes her lose meaning.