Nomada Studio’s upcoming GRIS has been the subject of much media attention since its first trailer debuted back in August. Ostensibly beautiful, GRIS’ magical aesthetic design is utterly encapsulating, making the trailer linger in the minds of those who watch it.
After a long four months, GRIS is finally arriving onto Nintendo Switch and PC. In order to come to terms with what exactly went into this wonderfully weird and mysterious project, we spoke with Nomada Studio about the influences behind the game, as well as what the experience itself strives to inspire in its players.
Could you describe GRIS in a few words from your perspective?
“GRIS tells the story of a hopeful young girl lost in a strange, beautiful world devoid of color, struggling to cope with a recent tragedy. It plays as a 2D puzzle platformer.”
How did you come up with the mechanic that controls GRIS’ dress?
“We were really attracted to the idea of a character that changed—that grew as they advanced. From there came the idea of giving certain personality to Gris’ dress in order to grant her a certain ‘mutable’ quality.”
In an industry in which violence and death/game overs are commonplace, what made you opt for a failure-free design?
“Not only did we want this project to be something anyone could experience, but we also felt that the no-death approach really fits in with the narrative we want to deliver. It attracted us right from the beginning.”
GRIS is absolutely stunning; what was involved in the aesthetic designing of the game?
“We did extensive research and documentation on other video games. GRIS’ aesthetic references come from games like Shadow of the Colossus, especially when it comes to architecture, or from Journey’s minimalism, but also from outside the video game media: from Ghibli films (the wondrous characters from Spirited Away and Mononoke Hime) to Disney film’s backgrounds, Moebius compositions, Theo Jansen’s moving sculptures, or Calder’s mobiles—and then a long list of etcetera. On top of that, I have a background as an illustrator, so the world and personality were already there. It was like some part of our imagination was what we gradually translated into the world of GRIS.”
In the trailer, the eponymous GRIS embarks on a solitary journey through a world that is emphatically far bigger than her, yet her quest doesn’t seem to be a lonely one. How did you incorporate aspects of platforming and the score to emphasize this?
“GRIS depicts a journey through Gris’ inner world, so it had to be solitary at its core. However, we also understood the need for her to relate to something. That’s why we decided to create several characters that act as a supporting cast of sorts. Both gameplay and music are there, in part, to help bridge the gap between Gris and those characters—to connect them, in a way.”
The sorrowful journey is emotional and painful; what kind of feelings do you want to evoke from players?
“We wanted each player to take their own interpretation from GRIS. Sure, we left some clues and symbols here and there, but in the end, it is important for us that everyone gets their own personal experience.”
From Team ICO’s Shadow of the Colossus to Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, GRIS draws from a plethora of magical influences. Despite drawing from such a deep and diverse well, though, GRIS has a strong sense of self, which it subtly asserts through the confidence that is so conspicuously woven into its aesthetic.
As Nomada Studio said, you’ll need to play it yourself to get the full effect. While they offered a lot of information about their inaugural project, they had to be at least relatively tight-lipped if they wanted the power of GRIS’ mystique to be as affecting as intended. If you liked Journey and are a fan of Disney films, though, it’s safe to say that GRIS is a match made in heaven for you.