A joyful little platformer
Dislcaimer: I did not buy this game, but got to play it thanks to a friend who had an extra key and gave it to me.
Ubisoft’s Grow Home (2015) is very much like a day at the playground with your parents. Players slip into the shoes of B.U.D., the Botanical Utility Droid, who has been sent out on an interplanetary mission to find the famed Star Plant. With him, of course, is the spacecraft M.O.M., who gives the mission directives to:
Explore the ecosystem of the planet they are currently on, help the famed Star Plant grow to a height of 2 km (~ 1.25 miles), harvest some of its seeds for return to Earth, and most importantly: Have fun! Which is what this game is all about.
Upon landing on the planet’s surface, players will immediately realize that B.U.D. moves a bit like an energetic toddler. When pushing the left analog stick or pressing a directional key on the keyboard, he just starts running with full enthusiasm (as well as a slight lack of coordination) towards whichever direction he was told to go. To further emphasize the protagonist’s childlike behavior, grabbing any object, or climbing up vines or walls , players have individual control over both his hands.
This mechanic strays far from mainstream action games that either have the characters climb up surfaces automatically – like in Resident Evil 5 (2009) – or make the player hold the analog stick in one direction to go up or down – like in Dead Island (2011). Instead Grow Home feels closer to independent titles like QWOP (2008) or GIRP) (2011), free to play indie games with similar ideas as this production. The focus on mechanics over other design is then even further emphasized by this game’s low polygon models and a very bare-boned story. In that sense, Grow Home feels like a very enjoyable exploration of movement in video games rather than a regular platformer. To sweeten things just a tad more, every now and then M.O.M. will also make a couple of comments that are both endearing and as embarrassing as one’s actual mother showing baby photos to one’s significant other.
Of course, apart from the main objective of finding ways to help the Star Plant grow, players can also explore the relatively small open world to activate eight teleporters, referred to as exploration tools or tele-routers, unearth 100 energy crystals that bolster B.U.D.’s abilities, as well as find 20 different animals and plants to expand M.O.M.’s database. These are often tucked away in hidden caves that not only speak to the player’s sense of exploration, but also their ability to figure out how to get these objects to M.O.M.’s scanners. Overall, the game feels very wholesome, although some of its achievements, like “Sheep dipper” or “Venus in furs”, that see players drown or feed wooly creatures to carnivorous plants seem out of place.
Despite being from 2015, the game runs surprisingly well on older machines, like the 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium desktop PC with an Intel Core 2 CPU, 3070 MB RAM, DirectX 11, & a GeForce 9500 GT graphics card that I used. To my surprise, the old toaster is even able to run Grow Home on the highest settings with about 20 frames per second (fps). Switching between a gamepad and they traditional keyboard and mouse combination was also flawless.
With all said and done, Grow Home is a comparatively brief title by Ubisoft standards and takes about two hours to beat, provided one just follows the main objective of growing the Star Plant. Those who really want to go exploring, on the other hand, will get about seven to ten hours worth of content, which leads up to the most important question: Is Grow Home worth a purchase? In my opinion, yes. Even though those already familiar with the aforementioned free to play titles might initially feel that there’s nothing new to see here, this game transfers QWOP‘s 2D concept to the third dimension and attempts to build a complete game around that. It offers an open world for players to explore, tries to add a replayability factor by introducing unlockables as well as power-ups, and combines these with charming puzzle platforming sections. Overall, Grow Home is a fun and calming games that both young and old can enjoy.
Grow Home is currently available as digital download on Steam for Windows and Linux, as well as for the PlayStation 4 on the PlayStation Store for $7.99 USD or your local equivalent.
Grow Home gets a 9 Star Seeds out of 10 climbing robots
The old text bit
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