Gris is the name of both the game and its central figure, a young girl who finds herself in a grey and faded environment, without the voice to communicate with it as she deals with a hideous loss. She faces a journey through her lifeless world to bring colour back into it, in this light puzzle platformer.
It's unnecessarily pretty (that's not actually a complaint). The world, as you slowly reintroduce colour through progress, is a combination of heavily detailed linework and loosely performed watercolour washes, which give it an increasingly bright look. It also gives it a very distinct feel, both in the long-distance overview playing shots, and in the close-up cutscene moments, eg:
The introduction of the additional colours are paralleled by new mechanics. Gris starts out only able to jump, but gains several abilities, including double (and super) jumping, the power of making flowers bloom, swimming, and the ability to become a rock.
As you might imagine, these are all used to solve various platforming puzzles, such as jumping on trees that aren't always there, navigating through clockwork mechanisms, and bounding around the place in carefully timed massive jumps. These are all explored from a central hub that evolves as you fix the world, and slowly unlocks further paths..
Those puzzles tend very much to the simple, with a small amount of back and forth getting them solved very easily. There's a certain level of jumping skill required, but it's not on the level of something like Ori. Luckily, that's obviously not the intention of the game, which is much more meditative.
Good thing really, as the controls do feel a little slow on occasion. There were a couple of areas in which I got rather frustrated by particularly awkward jumps, mostly because your movement never feels that fluid.
The control issue is especially annoying in some of the set moments which involve you running from a bit of danger. The game gives you enough control to briefly fool you into thinking you are influencing what's going on, but won't actually let you have any real effect. Cutscenes are fine, but this odd combination in which it pretends you have power but you don't, I found unexpectedly irritating.
You're not playing it for the tricky jumps and complex puzzles however. Or at least you shouldn't be. This is practically an animated film, that just happens to let you be involved in pushing the plot along. Think something like Journey.
And that film really is gorgeous. It's got a soundtrack that is soothing and exciting by degrees, and a very nice sound design, introducing different elements as the world re-discovers plants, animals and rain.
And your movement throughout is wonderfully animated, with the hand drawn nature I so enjoyed in Sundered, and an equally impressive villain who feels very inspired by Ferngully's Hexxus.
Its value is definitely in the art and music, and I predict a new desktop wallpaper in the future, but I don't think it'll have much replay potential. The story of Gris' dealing with grief is told subtly, with hints in the architecture and brief cutscenes that expand on the emotion of the piece, and they don't have quite the same power on a re-watch.
Still, it's a good tale to be told, and the art seems to have inspired the Girl, so that's always good.