Gris is rarely challenging, but that's by design. Adrian Cuevas, co-founder of Nomada Studio, said it's supposed to be a "smooth experience" that anyone can play. Like Journey, Inside and Abzu, it's the type of project that prioritizes atmosphere and emotion over gameplay complexity. There are some tricky platforming sections that force you to stop and observe the environment for a moment; a couple of buildings, too, can feel a bit puzzle-like if you haven't fully grasped your abilities yet. Nothing in the game should make you feel flummoxed or frustrated, though.
"We just want people to know that it's about a bad experience."
The game promises a subtle, dialog-free story about personal loss. In a press release, publisher Devolver Digital teased that the heroine is exploring "her own world" and trying to deal with a painful experience in her life. I noticed these themes toward the end of the demo, once Gris had returned to the statue where she started the game. The music rose to a fever pitch, and she suddenly curled up into a ball, ejecting a blue, ink-like substance that bled out into the world and triggered a gloomy downpour of rain.
Each level and its shifting appearance, I suspect, is a reflection of Gris and her emotional state. "We just want people to know that it's about a bad experience," Cuevas told me, "and how you overcome any kind of bad experience."
Cuevas isn't ashamed to talk about Gris' influences. You can see glimpses of Journey, for instance, as the character slides down a sandy mountain and turns elegantly in the dirt. "Journey was a personal change," he said. "It was like 'wow, video games can be this as well?!'" The double-jump is similar to Xbox and PC exclusive Ori and the Blind Forest, and the restrained approach to storytelling mimics the wonderfully creepy Inside. "[Inside] is a bit more linear, a bit more simple," Cuevas said. "But the whole experience is so smooth and well done. That's what we're aiming for too."
Gris will launch on PC and Nintendo Switch this December. The art alone makes it one to look out for, though if you place more importance on Mega Man-style difficulty or Metroidvania-level design, you might come away disappointed. The main question mark, for now, is the mysterious story. If the Spanish developer can deliver a tale that pulls at the heartstrings, this could be a truly special project. One that goes beyond its obvious video-game inspirations, and gives new meaning to Roset's intimate art.