Gris is a work of art. Each frame is its own mini-masterpiece, delicately illustrated and awash with bold hues and rich textures. On the surface, developer Nomada Studio’s debut project may seem to run the risk of being defined by its arresting visual style. Thankfully, this beauty is not just superficial but works harmoniously with elegant, inventive gameplay and a truly stunning soundtrack to tell a powerful, nuanced and utterly bewitching tale of loss and trials of grief.
Gris’ visual style is instantly arresting. Painter and illustrator Conrad Roset’s Schiele-inspired linework is exquisite, contrasting beautifully with the bursts of watercolour that bleeds and blossoms beneath it. Roset’s work is focused and refined in Gris, perfectly marrying form and function to craft a game world that feels cohesive and alive without sacrificing the loose expressivity his style.
Gris’ echoes everything from Ghibli and Disney to Fumito Ueda and Eyvind Earle in its aesthetic yet succeeds in feeling distinct and unique. As colour begins to bleed back into your world of black and white, each of the five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – distinguishes itself with a new pigment, abstractly embodying its own phase of grief. Earthy tints of crimson and scarlet stretch across a strange desert, lush emeralds and olives breathe life into a tangled forest of transforming trees and deep shades of teal and indigo soak a subterranean city.
Through vibrant use of colour, reoccurring visual motifs and subtle environmental storytelling, Gris tells a wordless tale rich with symbolism. Ambiguous storytelling can at times be frustratingly vague, yet here the balance is struck perfectly, with each story beat connecting with me almost instinctually. While no overt narrative may be too tenuous a thread to follow for some, Gris conveys emotions and ideas visually in a way words cannot. Weeping statues, shattered structures and shadow creatures all personify the game’s themes in creative ways, each striking piece of imagery continues to resonate with you long after its faded from the screen.
Beneath Gris’ artistic style and emotional substance lies equally elegant and engaging gameplay. The game’s graceful platforming and smart puzzles are rarely all that challenging instead placing the onus on the joy of movement and the allure of discovery. Collecting stars and completing constellations is all that is required to progress but hidden mementoes and level-specific challenges encourage exploration and incentivise replay. New abilities and mechanics ensure each area, like its theme and aesthetic, is distinctive and the game does a fantastic job of iterating upon how they interact, both with one another and the world. Turning into a block of stone lets you both smash through surfaces and weigh down platforms while the abilities to double jump and swim when combined allow you to traverse the game’s gravity-defying, perception-bending later levels.
Gris’ propels you through its world at a perfect pace during its 3-4 hours. This momentum is helped immensely by a sublime original score by Barcelona-based composer Berlinist. Trilling synths and warped strings chirp and hum, providing a pulse that adds rhythm to each of your movements, reminiscent of Solar Fields’ work on the Mirror’s Edge series. Berlinist embraces minimalism, using it to great effect, creating moments of stripped-back tension or calm. This reservedness reflects Gris herself, and when the score does crescendo it feels all the more impactful in contrast, converging cacophonously behind thrilling set-pieces or soaring aside cathedralic choirs to punctuate pivotal moments.
Gris is something special; a near-flawless blend of stunning art design, an equally remarkable musical score and refined gameplay that all work to serve a tactfully told story of loss and grief. Nomada Studio’s debut is a testament to video games as an art form, joining a list of games that not only define this year in games but this generation.
GRIS PS4 Review
Overall - Must Buy - 9.5/10
Gris is a mini-masterpiece. Conrad Roset’s exquisite art style, Berlinist’s electrifying score and Nomada Studio’s compelling game design all coalesce to deliver a singular, stunning vision.
- Unparalleled art design.
- A stunning soundtrack from Berlinist.
- Graceful gameplay that continues to inventively iterate.
- Perfectly paced.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.