Gris had been on my wish list for a while, but it was only after The Game Awards 2019 that really pushed me over the edge to finally buy the game. Going into this game, I knew it was going to be both visually and audibly stunning, however I didn’t think about how open to interpretation this game would be.
You have the baseline: Gris is about a girl going through a rough patch in her life. However, that’s the only definite part of this game, since apart from that, the way you view the game is completely fluid. Why? There is absolutely no dialogue to go by to determine the character development and overall storyline. That’s not to say there isn’t any—there most definitely is. However, instead of traditional storytelling and character development techniques in video games, Gris could be said to be much like Hyper Light Drifter. The lack of any dialogue at all proves to be an interesting player experience; one that’s full of personal interpretation.
To me, Gris is about growing and working with the chaos that surrounds you.
It starts off by the girl using the ruins of her broken world to navigate through her unrecognizable, lonely dystopia. Let’s start from there. In the beginning of facing hardships that hurt your internal world, it’s easy to feel like you’ll be stuck in the mess indefinitely. After all, you build up the foundations of your life starting from when you were a child, like beliefs, personal values, and people in your family. Even things that you pick up later in your life can mean just as much as those core foundations, like other relationships or hobbies. So, when one of those long-lasting structures becomes unstable and collapses, you’re left having to pick up the remnants of what used to be there, which isn’t pretty.
This is exactly what happens in Gris; the main statue in her world collapses, and her world becomes colorless and dreary. It is our protagonist’s job to fix her world again by collecting her colors back through the many beautiful levels, each level getting more stunning as the game progresses. Our protagonist, along the way, finds herself collecting powers, which I assume she had to begin with before her crisis. Let’s break this down.
When going through a turbulent change in your life, like I said, it’s easy to just sit there and fear that this’ll be a situation that you won’t be able to overcome. The first lesson that Gris teaches you is to just keep moving, even when things are uncertain. There were plenty of times in this game where the navigation was admittedly guesswork, since Gris’ world was huge and daunting; it was almost like having to use my instincts. Changes are big, scary, and a pain to deal with, especially when it’s uncalled for. However, so long as you keep moving, you’ll soon see that the amount of effort that was needed to do that is worth it. Just as how our protagonist gets up to get her colors back, the same can be said for us. If you keep going, you’ll come to a breakthrough and things will suddenly start to feel like they’re falling in place—but maybe in a slightly different way than before. After all, with each level of the game comes a new power to help our character navigate and overcome obstacles, showing that you’ll not only re-discover yourself but will also become stronger as you endure through the mess.
Things may even get worse before it gets better. Gris throws situations where the protagonist is in a vibrant, complete level one second and a drearier one the next. Perhaps even the occasional boss battle every once in a while, where the demons of her world would try to scare and consume her. To me, this shows the emotional phases one goes through when dealing with a rough patch. Some downfalls are inevitable, but they’ll be nowhere near as bad as the original situation. In fact, you’ll know how to function around this sour spot since you’re equipped for it.
If Gris is anything to go by, the colors of your world are always there—it’ll just take some time to find them again. This is the lesson of the endgame cutscene, teaching us that while it’ll take some personal readjustments to live in our now chaotic world, things will always turn out just fine and calm down. The only difference, like I mentioned, is the hyper-awareness of the situation coming into effect again; only if it does happen again, you’ll know how to deal with it so much better.
Gris is a beautiful game. Not only is it full of substance for interpretation, but the visuals and music accompany it flawlessly. It especially hits differently after having a turbulent year; reminding me for the new decade to keep your head up and thrive no matter what happens.