Though it’s five years old now, Grow Home is one of those games that just feels timeless. It’s one that far too few people have heard of, let alone played, but you should definitely give it a chance. It really won’t take long to – I apologise in advance – grow on you.
It’s an oddity from UbiSoft, especially given that it came at a time when even their driving games were sticking to an open world, tower-based formula. Grow Home was an experimental game developed by a small team at UbiSoft Reflections, initially not intended for release. It’s to UbiSoft’s credit that they did make it available commercially and you can see why they did.
Though it’s at odds with their usual big budget production values and the aforementioned open worlds they are now known for, there’s no denying that Grow Home has bags of charm and lots of freedom in how you approach its vertically arranged world.
You’re placed in control of BUD, a Botanical Utility Droid, and the overall goal of the game is to grow the Star Plant to 2000m, then return a seed to your ship’s computer – MOM.
BUD is an awkward and gangly character – quite deliberately, however. You control his limbs independently with shoulder buttons and hurl yourself around the sometimes dizzying heights of the low poly environments, mounting and controlling shoots that extend from the Star Plant in order to create platforms to help you ascend.
There’s a real physical, tangible quality to BUD and his environment which gives the game a very involving feel, despite the lack of detail. BUD himself is an utterly captivating and charming little guy – though it’s sometimes hard work helping him scale the environment, it’s very satisfying to overcome the obstacles placed in his way.
Dying can be a bit of a pain, depending on how far you drop, but you’ll respawn at the last teleportation pad you’ve activated – and these are, thankfully, often not too far apart.
It’s a short game, but I found it quite intense at times despite the deceivingly cute looks and gentle-seeming gameplay – mostly because climbing with BUD can be such hard – but ultimately very rewarding – work.
It’s a game I’d highly recommend. A sequel – Grow Up – followed in 2016, but I’ve still not attacked the dreaded backlog deeply enough to give it a try. I definitely need to though; I’d be very happy to spend more time in the company of BUD and MOM.
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