Finding the colour in your world

User Rating: 8 | GRIS NS

There’s this moment in ‘Gris,’ later in the game that I get lost in its momentum. I’m slowly jogging through an underground tunnel before launching myself up into suspended water. I dash through it like a dolphin at top speed before dropping back down onto a tree top that lights the darkness. I can finally see the shape of the room I was in for the first time. So, I jump and glide over a gap, up some more open water into a waterfall at exhilarating pace, before popping out and sliding down more rock to another section.

Moments like these are literally the point of the game – to get lost in the movement, flow, and absolutely gorgeous presentation. It’s not that its fast per say, because it’s not a platformer like Super Meat Boy. The flow is like a Pixies song: slow and plodding before breaking out in quick bursts of speed. At times though, it can be a bit drab as a game.

‘Gris’ is a pretty basic side-scrolling adventure. You venture through an unnamed land that’s presented in greyscale at first, and your only control is the analog stick and jump button. You move through the pretty environments, occasionally collecting stars that eventually open up new paths. From these paths you have access to another straightforward area with their own unique aesthetics. At the end of each section, a new colour is unlocked, presented as a splash of watercolour paint onto the world.

These moments are beautiful, and accepting the game as more of interactive experience lets you take in what makes the game special. The automatic and, at times, brain-dead pace of the game is a conduit for the experience as a whole; it’s about finding the colour in your life again – the spark. Those moments of entrancing flow I mentioned before are part of that, and it’s no surprise they occur more frequently later in the game when you've unlocked the handful of special abilities you acquire throughout its short runtime. The experience gets better as you go along. If you’ve been through the throws of grief or depression, this might be a very meaningful experience. The intention is admirable.

And there were some genuinely great game design elements and puzzles that had me smile. For a game light on mechanics, it was surprisingly adept at maintaining a fresh flow of ideas and combos. Other moments may have been more straight-up, but they still stuck with me – my favourite moment of the game is when you have to help feed a cute little forest creature. The connection of player to character is true, and amidst the experience, the message is clear.

It’s still hard to get over that the gameplay elements just aren’t deep enough to satisfy. There aren’t any mechanics or sequences that I feel like I’ll want to revisit anytime soon. In fact, I doubt I’ll ever replay ‘Gris’ – at least not anytime soon. But perhaps it’s unfair to judge this game by the standard of others. It’s different, and it wants to be. It’s not for everyone. But I have to commend it on that, and for how it achieved its job in doing so. It was one of the most unique experiences I had in 2019.