The Lone Ranger
Devolver Digital’s GRIS is an indie game that is anything but dull. The adventure game’s opening is hypnotizing. The game opens to a girl singing in the palm of an enormous statue’s hand. Although it’s never stated, you get the idea that this is her world, her mental terrain.
Suddenly, she loses her voice, color bleeds from her face, and as her world crumbles, so does the statue cradling her in its hands. As she falls, you see Nomada Media and Devolver Digital’s credits roll by, and you know that you’re in for a dynamic visual narrative. The game costs $4.99 on Google Play, but it’s worth it for its top-notch production quality and smooth gameplay. No other in-game costs appear, although you will need to invest all the strength in your thumbs.
As the game begins, the girl wakes up on the ground, dazed and surrounded by a great white expanse. Here the player takes control of the girl. As you begin walking, you enter a fog. Once you clear it, you’re able to run and jump. It soon becomes apparent that in order to advance, you must collect lone stars. These are stored high above, hanging in midair and must be reached with patience and ingenuity. GRIS features incredible visual design with bizarre geometric landscapes reminiscent of Samurai Jack, and the anonymous girl looks like Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, if she’d decided to take a stab at dyeing her hair electric blue.
Travelling Through Desolate Lands
Although there are no flying brooms or black cats, GRIS evokes a moving look inside someone’s crumbling world. As you run through its gameworld, you speed by broken cathedrals and snowcapped mountains. In the background you hear soft, willowy music. Scored by Berlinist, a composer and sound designer based in Barcelona, the music jibes poetically with the game’s beautiful and barren landscapes. Everything about the game’s look and sound evokes a feeling of nostalgia.
As you collect stars and reach checkpoints, color is added to your world. Your progress is also saved, and for every set of stars you create, a piece of a constellation appears in the sky. These checkpoints also occasionally grant you your next power. The first is learning to jump. The second is being able to turn into a heavy cube, and so on. As you travel, you need to constantly adapt to your environment, fighting against the unrelenting sandstorms that blow you back five paces for every three that you take.
GRIS: Poetic and Nostalgic
GRIS is a thing of magic and inspiration, but it is also one of the most frustrating games I have ever played. With the left joystick, you direct your character, and with the right, you use your skills (jumping, turning into a heavy cube, etc). This initially made navigating the game quite difficult, as a successful jump can easily be altered by how you coordinate the left and right joysticks. As movement is intensely responsive to said controls, your jumps may fail at even the slightest difference in position. It’s exhausting.
By no means is GRIS a picnic. It’s calming outward aesthetic will not mirror what you feel when you play the same stretch twenty times. However, the title has earned my considerable respect. Although I found that the story and design didn’t fully compensate for the game’s intense difficulty, it by no means left me uninterested. Without a doubt, you won’t be able to resist the game’s siren song, and you’ll continue wrestling with it, absolutely starstruck as to where you’ll end up next.
Is it Hardcore?
GRIS is built with care and infused with beauty. Get ready for a breathtaking and challenging experience.