GRIS Preview: Take My Breath Away
Kalvin Martinez / Sep 18th, 2018 No Comments
GRIS was only announced a few weeks before PAX West. All I knew about the game came from its breathtaking trailer, and one of the things I knew was that I needed to play the demo.
When I did, I noticed something interesting. It wasn’t just a single cut section of the game; it was multiple sections brought together to give a sense of the powers in Gris and to let players get a sense of the emotion and beauty driving the gameplay. It worked.
Introspection through Art
When speaking to some of the developers from Nomada Studio about GRIS, it became apparent the wordless storytelling and evocative imagery is to illicit introspection in the player. Gris is about the protagonist’s trauma and how she overcomes it through the course of the game. However, it is more than just that. The developers hope that identifying with the protagonist and her journey will allow players to find extra layers of meaning in the game and maybe find something within themselves.
As stitched together sections of the full game, the GRIS demo gave me a good idea of how the game plays. More importantly, it showed off how good it looks.
GRIS features a striking art style. Bold character and level designs are given a softness and vulnerability by lush water colors. It looks like a living painting. The animations in the game, be it the protagonist herself, the shape-shifting trees or a giant bird blocking your progress, move beautifully.
According to the developers, the main point of the demo was not only to show off a snapshot of the game, but to give players an idea of the different mechanics at play. GRIS is a game without combat and without death, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. The challenge comes from its platforming and puzzle solving.
The protagonists abilities aid her greatly in both these ventures. The demo introduced two mechanics: the ability to float using the protagonist’s coat and the ability for her to turn her coat into a stone. Both of these abilities heavily factored into solving puzzles and overcoming platforming challenges in the demo.
Float was the most useful ability in my experience. It allows you to double jump, but it also helps you glide across gaps that would otherwise be impossible to clear. There were some particularly tough sections in the demo where I had to navigate through many shape-shifting trees by using the float ability to continue moving forward. While GRIS isn’t a precision platformer, it does take some thought and timing to master the platforming.
Another facet of floating is using it to launch yourself in the air. You can achieve this by getting a boost from red creatures. This ability allows you to reach heights impossible to reach with normal jumping and floating. It also creates a dazzling animation effect.
I found the protagonist’s ability to turn into stone necessary to destroy objects to free those red creatures, but it also served a more immediate and pressing function later in the demo.
A giant, nasty bird showed up trying to bar my progress by blowing a powerful gust of wind to keep me from moving forward. By turning to stone, I was able to keep from being blown away.
This part of the demo also featured a section where the giant bird would selectively blow gusts at the playable character as I tried to navigate gaps. To best this tough section, you must use the float and stone mechanics with precision timing and though. Beating this section requires using the stone to move forward while the bird blows winds, then waiting for it to blow gusts again to float across, then quickly turning to stone again. This portion of the demo really showed off how both abilities work together and how the platforming and puzzle solving go hand in hand.
The demo, like the full game, starts out in muted tones and a washed out palette. Color comes back as you progress through the game. As you complete the demo, you trigger a cutscene that causes color to rain from the sky. This rain changes the level design, adding both greenery and water.
Before the demo closed out, I got a sense of how water worked. Players can dive between standing sections of water like a dolphin cresting a wave. It opened up a whole new way to platform.
The last portion of the demo involved a tricky puzzle where I had to use the water’s reflection to navigate a ruin. It added so much gorgeous and stark imagery to an already wondrous-looking demo.
Some Type of Way
GRIS is something else. The demo was a wondrous experience. Even if the full game won’t be a similar experience, I’m more than happy to see how the protagonist’s journey evolves over the course of the game.
GRIS releases on Nintendo Switch and PC later this year.
tags: Devolver Digital , Gris , GRIS Demo , GRIS Preview , PAX West , preview