Developer: Nomada Studio, Blitworks
Mechanics: walk/run, jump, smash, swim, propel/call for “flight” help, sing
Dynamics: experimentation/combos, exploration/discovery
Aesthetics: sensory, challenge, narrative
Gris is a beautiful 2D platformer that takes players through a visual story that is emotionally centered, particularly on grief. It introduces simple movement mechanics to the player, such as jumping, “smashing” down, swimming, a “call” to ask for propulsion/fight help, and singing. However, these mechanics are gradually introduced as the game progresses, not all at once. The player is only able to walk, run, and jump in the first part of the game, where it gradually introduces them to increasingly tricky platforms. With the minimal mechanics, the focus centers on the distinct art style and music of the game. For much of the opening sequence of the game (i.e. before they open with the game title for the first time), I spent my time looking at all the details of the art, and honing my ears in to the music. That simplicity in mechanics encourages exploration and discovery of each new region that you encounter, marked by the distinct addition of a new color to the world of the game.
You gradually learn to experiment with combinations of movement mechanics as you obtain them. For example, after learning to “call” and swim, you can do such a “call” underwater near certain creatures, who will help propel you up and out of the water, jumping higher than you normally would. Gaining different moves gradually gives space for the player to try new combinations of moves in a new area, which introduces them to new challenges and puzzles to acclimate them as well. This allows the pace of the game to stretch out and feel slower in comparison to other platformers (e.g. the relatively faster pace of New Super Mario Bros. levels), encouraging experimentation and discovery, and ultimately, providing a load of visual and musical delight as you encounter new challenges, all under an overarching narrative about grief. The mechanics become a tool to allow you to explore the areas, encounter new enemies, and piece together the larger theme behind the game at your own pace. Combined, Gris is an elegant game in its genre, having the mechanics play the base supporting role that carry the progression of the story.