Game Reviewed: Gris
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Nomada Studio
Reviewer: Samuel Gronseth II
Platform(s): PC, Switch
ESRB Rating: E
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Like many good stories, Gris begins with trauma. A girl plummets into the depths of despair, her life shattered and her voice lost. The game is about her journey to reclaim her voice, see beauty in the world again, and make herself whole again.
The player will navigate this girl through a variety of beautiful, hand-painted landscapes, slowly learning to navigate the world and see its beauty as the game progresses. There is no combat or violence, just jumping and gliding through ruined buildings and wild landscapes. The player progresses by continuing through the game world and occasionally figuring out how to make their way through difficult terrain.
Gris is less about challenge than about beauty and message. It’s a game with something to say, and a beautiful way to say it. So let’s see if its message is something your kids can safely observe.
What Parents Need to Know
On a couple occasions, large, shadowy monsters will try to attack the player. This can take the form of a bird screaming at them, an eel trying to eat them, or a human face charging at them. There is no actual violence, but very young players may find this scary.
Gris includes no spoken words, let alone any obscene language.
The game includes statues of the protagonist in various poses indicating grief. These statues are shaped according to the female form, but include no detailed nudity.
Gris includes a number of things that could be seen as magical, such as the use of singing to revive plants, the transformation of the girl’s dress into a heavy stone, and a number of creatures that inhabit rocks like hermit crabs. There is no expansion on these elements, and they’re more symbolic than literal.
Gris is about grief, and has a rather powerful message to that end. Its lack of dialogue means it could be easily understood in broad strokes by young audiences, but its depth of symbolism means children are unlikely to fully understand it. In any case, the game paints a beautiful picture of how one recovers from life-shattering tragedy.
Every now and again, a game comes around to prove how beautiful video games can be. Gris belongs with other games like Journey and Okami as one of the top examples.
Gris is a heavily symbolic game; the trauma in the opening is depicted as the protagonist singing beautifully, perched on the open palm of a statue of herself, when the statue cracks and crumbles. Her fear and trauma is depicted multiple times as a shadowy creature pursuing her. Her brightening worldview is symbolized throughout the game through the addition of colors to the initially black-and-white landscape.
The result is a game that is both hypnotically beautiful and deeply meaningful. Anyone who has faced intense trauma will see themselves in Gris. It’s a powerfully relatable work of interactive art that’s more concerned with painting a picture of grief and recovery than wasting the player’s time.
In that way, it may not appeal to children in the same way as popular games like Fortnite and Minecraft. But there are also plenty of children who would enjoy the experience and get something out of trying to understand it fully. If your child is the type to explain the movies they see, or who actually enjoys writing book reports, there’s a good chance they’ll get something out of Gris.
And if you have teenagers, or play games yourself, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Gris is an inexpensive, brief experience that will stick with you for a long time after you complete it. And its complete lack of offensive content makes it that much more accessible.
Samuel Gronseth II
Samuel Gronseth II is an avid video game enthusiast who manages Video Game Reviews at TheSource4Parents.com. He has experience teaching about video games, and is passionate about their storytelling potential. Sam's favorite movie is The Empire Strikes Back, and his favorite video game is Persona 4. Sam lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife, Jimi. To see more of Samuel, check out his Youtube series Games as Lit. 101, where he examines the stories of beloved video games to see what we can learn from them: https://www.youtube.com/gamesasliterature.