There is no game in the past year that has looked better than Devolver Digital's GRIS. God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Spider-Man on PS4 were more impressive technically but GRIS uses its watercolor art style to great effect to create one of the most arresting games on the Nintendo Switch (and PC) but especially the former. GRIS is short, running about five hours from start to finish, but in that time there's so much visual bang for your buck. It truly feels like a watercolor painting that has come to life.
The game is more than just a visual treat. On the surface GRIS seems similar to other "artsy" games like Journey or ABZU but there's actually quite a bit more gameplay involved in GRIS than either of those titles. GRIS plays unlike anything else publisher Devolver Digital has put out, primarily known for the action-packed Serious Sam and Hotline Miami franchises. And GRIS is far from a shoot-em-up. GRIS is slower paced than those examples but it still has that same sense sense of engagement and fun that keeps the game from just being more than an interactive screensaver.
Even though the whole package is one consisting of pleasure and delight GRIS does start off on rough or, at least confusing, footing. This is due in to how the game is set up. GRIS dives headfirst into the action with players put in charge of the titular heroine and given no kind of direction on what to do or what is happening besides the age-old platforming solution of just point the directional stick. While this is initially off-putting it begins to become one of GRIS' greatest charms. GRIS isn't a hard game, by any means, but every discovery of the world and each platforming puzzle feels that much more rewarding because there's no hand-holding involved. GRIS wants to be disorienting to help the player conquer their own confusion naturally.
It's true that in the most basic gameplay terms GRIS doesn't do much new. The game is split into very linear sections and each one has some sort of power to unlock in the middle of it. These powers then facilitate further exploration of the area and give tools to solve puzzles that seem impossible initially. Any seasoned gamer won't have trouble surmounting the challenges that GRIS throws at them. There's just enough challenge included though that it is rewarding to get from one area to the other for more than just the visual feasts on the horizon.
It can't be stated enough though how much GRIS' aesthetic makes up the bulk of its value. While it's nice to have some challenge and actual platforming to do, the way the world unfolds and the myriad of colors it contains is simply breathtaking. The argument about if video games are art has long since proven to be asinine and it's impossible to look at some of the triple AAA titles and not see that its storytelling is on the level of and sometimes surpasses blockbuster movies. GRIS is so stunning that there's no other word for it but art.
The animation is smooth and every single frame tells a story. There's no spoken dialogue in GRIS. It's just music and visuals but the emotional story it tells about loss with those limited tools is deeply felt. Screenshots do not do GRIS justice and neither does video. The visuals have a magical quality all their own when the player is put in control.
The short length of GRIS might be too much (or too little) for some players. GRIS isn't a full price title but it can (and should) be beaten in one sitting. Similarly priced games can last much longer. There's no real replay value either to make a second jaunt in its colorful world worth it. GRIS is best experienced as single-sitting five-hour adventure and after that there's nothing more to do really do with the game. The puzzles are a lot less engaging on repeat and the world is very linear. In every other aspect though GRIS is a masterpiece in visualization and atmospheric storytelling.
GRIS is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC for 16.99. Screen Rant was provided a Nintendo Switch copy for review.