Grief can be overwhelming. It can consume and dominate all other feelings. The world can feel drained of colour when grief takes hold.
In Gris, the titular character wakes to find herself in the palm of a statue's hand. She starts to sing, only to lose her voice, the hand crumbles beneath her and she plummets through a white void. She lands in a desolate, misty landscape, hesitant to move forwards.
After some traumatic event, she is experiencing the first stage of grief, denial.
While grief is a unique and personal experience for everyone, the well known Kübler-Ross model suggests people pass through five stages during the grieving process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is through these that the player guides Gris.
As Gris progresses through her grief, different colours are introduced to represent the emotions felt. Anger brings in deep, dusty reds as you navigate through ruins in a desert. You face winds pushing you back as storms pick up and billowing clouds of watercolours pass over the screen. It is astonishingly beautiful.
The music matches the rising of these tempests too, the serene piano dropping away to frantic organ music. It really helps convey the waves of anger that can arise and dissipate with no warning when grieving. The game makes great use of animation and music throughout to convey the emotional sensations of Gris' journey.
The animation in this game is spectacular, from Gris' fluid, shapeless dress to the mysterious shape-shifting creature who hounds you through the game in astounding set pieces. In a lush and fecund area, you find square-topped trees which peel away to change shape, either in a regular pattern or timed with your jumps.
The skill and artistry on display in this game is astonishing, games are compared to like playing a cartoon but Gris is like playing a painting. Each frame is a work of art and helps to cultivate the distinct feelings the story is conveying.
Through the game Gris gets various upgrades to her abilities, but this shouldn't be seen as a Metroidvania. Once complete, areas are only accessible again through the chapters menu as Gris wants you to keep moving forwards rather than backtracking for collectables.
There are some light puzzle elements to the game, but it's similar to Journey or Abzû where primarily the game is about the experience. These days you'll see fewer people debating whether games are art or not, but if anyone was sceptical it'd be quite easy to point them in the direction of Gris.
It's not just the gorgeous graphics, the stunning animation or the enchanting music. The use of level design, colour, action and set pieces to tell a story of coming to terms with a traumatic event is a demonstration of how games can give an artistic expression of the human experience in a way other mediums are unable to.
If you do play Gris, just make sure you have enough space for all the screenshots you'll inevitably take.