I first heard about GRIS in some passing review on Twitter saying that it was fantastic. A lot of people say this about a lot of games. I moved on.
Then I saw someone else saying that GRIS was amazing. Then someone else. And more. Everyone who had played this game said it was brilliant/fantastic/amazing. General hyperbole that tends to fall into the category of “over-hype”.
GRIS is brilliant, fantastic and amazing.
I really don’t believe this to be hyperbole. Or over-hype.
At its core, GRIS is just another puzzle-platformer game, and mechanically handles as you would expect. You start being able to run and jump, and pick up a couple of new abilities along the way. There’s no combat in GRIS, it’s all about the journey, and the abilities reflect that. There’s 4 you pick up, a heavy form, a glide, a power dive, and one other that I won’t spoil. There are some games of the genre whereby abilities are useful for a short time until you get the next ability, it’s very much an ability-of-the-day feeling. There’s none of that here. Once you unlock an ability, you are using it for the rest of the game. Everything you can do has purpose.
This is never going to be ranking highly as a precision platformer, you won’t be landing on the exact pixel you want. With maybe one exception, you never need to. The game controls smoothly, and movement flows predictably, though I sometimes found that when trying to make some larger jumps, the game demanded almost more precision than it could cater for.
The game does, however, do an excellent job of hinting at the skills and tactics you need to use further down the line. I’m sure I saw these at the time, but it was only on repeat playthroughs (there have definitely been repeat playthroughs) that I actually recognised what they were doing. On top of how it looks and sounds, the level design is very well done to guide you towards what you need to be doing.
The graphics are stunning.
OK, a bit more detail. Some games aim for photorealism. Some for memorable or cartoonish or gritty. GRIS is an artistic masterpiece. Professional artist Conrad Roset made a jump into video games with GRIS, and his artistic origins are on full display throughout this game. From the backgrounds, to the main character, to the cinematics, you may find yourself wanting a new screenshot button by the end.
The only criticism I can make of it is that there are times when it is not clear if scenery is able to be walked on, or if it’s just scenery. But this detracts very little, and is easy enough to work out quickly. It doesn’t slow the game down noticably.
This is, I think, the only game I have played where I interrupt gameplay on stream to go and buy the soundtrack. The game looks fantastic, but the emotional impact it has is utterly powered by the music playing throughout. In a game with no words, no text, no linguistic communication at all, the story is what you hear.
If you played this game with the volume down while watching videos or listening to a podcast, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Go back and play it through again, music turned high.
Berlinist have done a fantastic job with this, and just listening to the soundtrack alone will virtually tell the whole story of the game through again. I absolutely encourage getting the soundtrack with this.
This game is spectacular. For gameplay purists, who are interested exclusively in the mechanics, it might not be anything to immediately write home about, but this game is also not aimed at you, even slightly.
This game is all about the visuals and the sound. The gameplay is mostly just a way to get you from one vista and soundscape to the next. This game is, I believe, the closest I have ever come to crying on a stream, and it is a game I can and will come back to repeatedly, though I suspect many others will not. At this year’s Game Awards, it won Game for Impact, and deservedly so, and has wins or nominations for numerous graphics awards too.
Play this game.