Gris might be the prettiest game I've ever played. The 2D platformer is set in a dream-like world filled with crumbling statues, towering temples and inky, shape-shifting birds. Even the trees -- a typically unremarkable part of video game environments -- are topped with luscious foliage that melts between square, triangular and completely invisible states. The titular heroine, a hopeful young girl, dashes and floats through the world with mesmerizing grace, her dress and blue hair blowing softly in the wind. Everything feels surreal and otherworldly, painted in watercolor shades of pink, blue, red and green. It's totally unique, and I absolutely love it.
The game developed by Spanish outfit Nomada Studio has been shrouded in mystery since January 2016. Beyond some gorgeous concept art and the occasional video snippet, the team has shared little about the game's premise, or how it actually plays. All we've known for certain, until now, is that it looks absurdly beautiful.
After playing a half-hour demo, I can tell you that Gris is a relaxing mixture of jumps, puzzles and light exploration. The various locales are peppered with white glimmering specks that zip around like fireflies. Pick them up and you'll be able to form pathways that sit in mid-air like star maps. They're also required to unlock new abilities that manifest through Gris' dress. One lets you perform a double-jump with a physics-defying glide at the end. Another allows you to smash open vases and stand firm against strong gusts of wind.
There's no HUD or on-screen text, save for the odd button prompt when you acquire a new technique. The camera zooms automatically, too, to frame an environmental puzzle or the floating obstacles you need to overcome next. These elements ensure that your attention is always fixed on the game's exceptional art, created by Catalan artist Conrad Roset. He grew up in Terrassa, just north of Barcelona, and works today as a freelance artist for a range of commercial clients, including Adidas, Disney and Zara. His style, a mesmerizing blend of watercolor and Indian ink, permeates every screen of Gris.
The game doesn't have a health system, so you can't die from a mis-timed jump. There are some enemies, but they serve as sporadic puzzles rather than complicated boss battles. I met a giant bird, for instance, that pushed me around with an ear-piercing screech unless I used my heavy ground-pound ability. A few moments later, I had to jump in time with the warbler's cries to carry myself across some large gaps. The creature never attacked me, though, and was friendly once I had progressed far enough through the level.