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Video Game / GRIS

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GRIS is an indie Puzzle Platformer Art Game from the Spanish Nomada Studio, published in December 2018 by Devolver Digital for the PC and Nintendo Switch. The title heroine is a young girl dealing with a serious personal trauma, the exact nature of which is uncovered throughout the game, as you guide Gris through a surreal and initially bleak landscape of her devastated psyche.

See Journey (2012) for a game with similar mechanics and Eternally Us for one with similar central theme and plot structure, as well as Arise: A Simple Story for another Spanish-made heartstring-tugging game with simple mechanics and no dialogue.

The game contains examples of following tropes:

  • Air-Aided Acrobatics: The bird's scream blows you back, which is usually a hindrance, except once where you need to ride it to cross a gap (and another time for getting a memento).
  • Animal Motifs: The Darkness takes the form of first a swarm of butterflies, then a giant bird, then an eel as it both hinders and attacks Gris. Butterflies are reminiscent of death, while certain birds and eels are predatory animals, which is appropriate given the Darkness is the Anthropomorphic Personification of Gris' feelings of despair.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Bird, the Eel, and the black butterflies Gris encounters throughout the game are all part of the Darkness, who is Gris' despair given form. It constantly attacks Gris to makes her give in to her own grief, and when she comes close to restoring her mother's statue, the Darkness reveals its true form as Gris' darker side before swallowing her completely so she would never recover. Gris' mother singing alongside her daughter banishes and kills the Darkness for good, completing Gris' recovery.
  • Apocalypse How: After the statue crumbles at the beginning, Gris is lost in a lifeless world of her psyche with no color, indicating near-total extinction. It's up to her to find the remnants of the statue so that she can restore color and life back to her world, bringing the apocalypse class down to near-zero.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At the end of the water sequence, Gris is chased by the bird-turned-eel. When it is just about to swallow her, the turtle appears and saves her.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The water sequence has a lot of bioluminescent creature, both plants and fish. Often they guide you through the the darkness. In the flower sequence, there are also plants and other creatures that light up, revealing objects that are only solid when visible.
  • Bookends: The game starts and ends with Gris singing in the statue's hand.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: "Gris" means "gray" in Spanishnote . The game starts in a grey, desolate wasteland, and it revolves around restoring color to the world.
  • Cope by Creating: Gris copes with personal loss by singing. Notably, she cannot actually sing for most of the game (the "Sing" button is mapped, but only elicits weak gasps from Gris), only finding her voice again in the penultimate stage. At the climax, singing finally helps her to overcome her depression.
  • Crystal Landscape: At one point Gris lands in a cave where the walls are made of ice crystals. The core mechanic in this area is that at regular intervals a freezing event occurs, which creates a frozen replica of the character that can be used as a stepping stone if done right.
  • Dark Is Evil: The main antagonist that follows Gris and tries to devour her are a bunch of black butterflies, which turn into a black bird, then a black eel, and finally a black version of Gris herself.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The entire game is this until Gris begins to gain various abilities that allow her to navigate the world.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: Far more subdued than other examples, but the use of smooth vector lines and geometric shapes leans into this aesthetic.
  • Double Jump: In a twist on the platformer formula, Gris doesn't start out with this ability, and in fact, it is actually the second special ability you gain, after turning into a block of stone.
  • Downer Beginning: While grieving the death of her mother, the statue Gris was singing to crumbles, and she loses her will to sing.
  • Ending by Ascending: As the statue of Gris' mother opens the path for her, she walks up to the path of stars she has created, and goes on a long journey upward as both her and her mother's voices sing in the background, until she reaches the whiteness of a bright light, signfying heaven and indicating that she has redeemed herself from her anxieties at last.
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: If you've played Journey, you already know the controller buttons for jumping and for singing — however, using either command in the very first stage instead just brings Gris to her knees, as she is too devastated to do anything but slowly walk. Although she regains her jumping ability early on, she cannot sing until the second half of the penultimate stage. Before that, all you can get out of her are weak gasps — this is strongly implied to be because singing brings back traumatic memories for her.
  • Expy: The developers have acknowledged that the denizens of the polygon forest are based on Kodama and Soot Sprites.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Each area of the game corresponds to a particular stage of grief.
    • The gray level represents Denial. The world is colorless save for gray, white, and black, showing how the death of Gris' mother robbed her of her desire to live and made her unable to enjoy the things she (and her mother) used to do. Gris herself spends the beginning of the level in an apathetic depression after her mother's statue crumbles away, which translates to walking listlessly and being unable to jump for a while.
    • The red level represents Anger. The world becomes a blood-red desert plagued by constant sandstorms, and if Gris doesn't get to shelter in time, she'll be blown back by a distance until the sandstorm ends. This represents Gris' own anger towards her mother's death and how it makes her irrational. Fittingly, the level is where Gris gains the "Block" ability, and if used to destroy various statues scattered acrosss the level, the player gets the achievement titled "Anger". The Block ability also makes Gris resistant to the sandstorms, referring to the process of overcoming one's anger.
    • The green level represents Bargaining. The world becomes a lush forest full of life, and Gris starts opening up enough to interact with others. At one point, Gris encounters and befriends an apple-loving spirit by feeding it apples, which the spirit repays by helping her in her quest. She also encounters and defeats the Darkness (taking the form of a giant black bird) when it attacks her. Sadly, her actions do not change that her mother still died — players can gain the "Bargaining" achievement by having Gris sing to a statue of her mother, and only for her to still gasp weakly.
    • The blue level represents Depression. Gris ends up traveling to the underwater caverns where it gets darker the further down she swims. To get to the deepest, darkest parts of the level, she has to be guided by a giant turtle. Then she is attacked by the Darkness, which takes form here as a giant black eel that tries to eat her during her lowest emotional point. Towards the end of the level, it nearly succeeds, only for Gris to be saved by the turtle she encountered earlier. Fittingly, the achievement for this level is "Depression", gained by straying from the turtle and entering a secret passageway that contains a lone statue of Gris' mother in a falling pose.
    • The yellow level represents Acceptance. The world appears as a palace-like world filled with lush plants and exotic birds, but it's not quite healed yet as many flowers are not fully bloomed. It also has a topsy-turvy environment, representing the process of learning that life has its metaphorical ups and downs. Gris re-learning how to sing opens up new pathways that were formerly inaccessible, and plays a role in killing the Darkness for good by connecting with her mother's spirit, who sings with her to assure her daughter that her memory will always be with her. The achievement for this level, "Acceptance", can be gained by having Gris sing to her mother's tomb, covering it in flowers.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The black butterflies appear and follow Gris long before they transform into the bird (and later the eel).
    • The game begins with Gris singing in the hand of the statue. The statue starts falling apart, and her voice is gone. In the final sequence, she had already learned to sing, her path ends in the hand of the fallen apart statue. The beginning of the game hints that singing will restore the statue.
  • Green Thumb: When Gris sings, flowers around her begin to bloom.
  • Gravity Screw:
    • In the 5th stage, there is a horizontal line above which gravity is reversed.
    • In other parts, gravity works normally on Gris, but the water often works in weird ways, such as stuck upwards or sideways.
  • Gusty Glade: The first part of the 2nd stage has dust storms that blow Gris back. One of the segments requires Gris to use the "Block" ability to resist a particularly huge, neverending dust storm in order to progress. The dust storms represent Gris' anger at her mother for dying, and the point of the 2nd level is to help Gris overcome this.
  • Hope Spot: At the end of the game, after you collected all of the stars and climb up to the top of the tower to ascend on the bridge of stars, the eel suddenly appears out of nowhere, turns into an evil version of yourself, and makes you fall deep into water, initiating the final sequence.
  • Hub Level: Played with. At the end of each stage, you get back to the same place, which is upgraded each time you unlock a new color. You have to use the upgrades and Gris' newly gained powers to reach the next stage. While this allows you to keep track of the mementos you collected (or failed to collect) during the previous pages, it is impossible to go back to the previous levels, making it only a semi-hub level.
  • Ironic Name: The protagonist of the game is a blue-haired girl named Gris, whose name means "gray" in Spanish. However, it becomes less ironic when considering how blue and gray are often linked with depression, and the plot of the game involves Gris moving on from her mother's death.
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: Climbing upwards is a recurring theme. Most notable is the second half of the 3rd stage and the ending. At other places there are long falls.
  • Jump Physics: You have a slight control over your horizontal direction while jumping. Later in the game you unlock Double Jump, with the added effect that after your second jump, keeping the jump button pressed slows your fall. There are also red butterflies that gives you a larger boost in jumping.
  • Last Kiss: Gris, to the statue of her mother, signalling her acceptance of her death and being ready to move on.
  • Magic Music: The last power to be unlocked is the ability to sing, which awakens flowers.
  • Monochrome to Color: Gaining new powers also adds a bit of color to Gris' plain, initially grey dress, and in turn, allows her to bring the primary colors back to the world.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: Uses a world of dense symbolism to represent a woman's process of grieving her deceased mother.
  • Not Too Dead to Save the Day: In the finale, as Gris is finally able to restore the statue that represents her lost mother, the darkness representing her grief begins to swallow both of them. Just as it consumes Gris, the statue itself begins to sing, dispelling the darkness and allowing her to continue.
  • Remixed Level:
    • Between each stage, you return to the same area with some differences each time. See Hub Level.
    • The rainy forest you pass through after restoring the color blue is, in fact, the same area you visited after unlocking green - just with more platforms visible and accessible by double-jumping.
    • Another recontextualized area is some of the blue caverns you traverse after having unlocked the swim ability and the color yellow, including (the top of) the icy caverns and the impressive water tree.
  • The Reveal: Collecting every Memento unlocks a hidden scene that reveals that the woman whom Gris mourns is her mother, and the "stars" the player collects throughout the game are actually fireflies they caught together one memorable night.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: An organ music is playing during the sandstorms.
  • One-Woman Wail: This is the way Gris sings.
  • Scenery Porn: The game is absolutely stunning in its art direction and backgrounds.
  • Sequential Boss: The Bird in the forest stage, who assaults Gris multiple times before she can escape. It is not really defeated, however, given how it is more of a manifestation of Gris's depression than a real enemy, and it comes back in later stages as the Eel and, briefly, as Giant Gris, before turning into a giant sea of black goo and almost swallowing Gris before it is defeated by her and her mother singing together.
  • Slippery as an Eel: The black ooze that pursues Gris throughout the game takes on the form of a giant eel in the water stage.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Gris can stay underwater indefinitely, though this is only after she gains the ability to transform into a manta ray.
  • Tears from a Stone: The climax features the reassembled statue representing Gris's mother shedding a Single Tear.
  • Too Upset to Create: The heroine starts out so broken by grief that she cannot produce anything but weak gasping sounds when the player presses the button labeled as "Sing". Fittingly the eel, a representation of Gris depression, attacks Gris after her initial attempt to do so. Her ability to sing comes back later in the game, after she overcomes her initial depression and anger, and singing then helps her work through her grief.
  • Under the Sea: The 4th stage is generally water-themed, and a large part of it is spent by swimming underwater.
  • Wham Line: Impressively, GRIS manages to have one, despite being a game with no words. In the climax, just when a desperately singing Gris has been swallowed by the Darkness, a second voice — her mother — answers her.
  • World-Healing Wave: When Gris finally sings, it has the effect of rejuvenating and restoring colors to everything around her, but only in a small radius. And then in the finale, when Gris's mother joins her in her final song, their duet fully restores everything about the world, from the red desert of Anger being given more color, to the broken buildings within the forest of Bargaining being given transparent replacement fixtures.



The winds in this stage blow you back.

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Main / GustyGlade

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