Before the public knew about Grow Home, it was created by a small team of developers at Ubisoft, and was released internally, for the staff to enjoy. Eventually, Ubisoft tested it and decided it had to be published as a full, public game. After tweaking it a bit, they announced its release and in a mere two weeks they released the game on Steam. Thank god they did, because this is an absolute treat of a game.
The game starts off when a very “Wall-E” styled red space ship pans over a beautiful landscape. According to the screen, we can infer that whoever or whatever is piloting this ship is searching for the “Star Plant”. Once the target is acquired, the ship drops a little red robot, our protagonist, B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid). The objective is to use the energy in the environment around you to feed the Star Plant, and make it grow up through floating islands and rocks until it reaches a height of 2000m. The way the vines grow is up to you, so sometimes you can ride the vines to higher ground, or drive them into floating Islands to act as a pipe and suck the energy out of the island.
The world of Grow Home isn’t very linear. You can go to just about any point in the game at any time by soaring there on a leaf, falling by a flower, maybe even taking the good old jetpack, but when you play the game, you always feel like you need to be going up. It’s almost as if, without saying it, the game makes us think that’s what we need to do. Luckily, BUD is equipped with a surprisingly durable pair of claws that can hold on to any surface for as long as necessary, making it easy to climb around the map and get into secret caves or grab crystals or anything collectible. There is a strong feeling of independence when playing this game, it’s up to you to pick where you want to go.
In terms of controls, this game is unique. You control BUD’s hands with the left and right mouse and use WASD to run around. Clicking left or right would make BUD’s hands close on whatever he was holding or on the wall, allowing him to alternate between hands to climb. It’s adorable when BUD runs around and you have both your hands up, it’s almost as if BUD is eager to begin, to delve right in head first and soak up everything this game has to offer. Aside from BUD’s controls, sometimes you need to grab onto a budding vine that comes out of the Star Plant, and control the path it grows by using WASD. This part is more unorthodox control wise, because sometimes it’s inverted and sometimes it’s not, which of course is confusing, I just wonder how this hasn’t caused for any “Beanstalk Simulator 2015” jokes.
As great as Grow Home can be, there is a bit of a tedious process in climbing a 2000m beanstalk and not falling. If you fall, one of a two things could happen. The first option is that you’ve picked up a Fall Flower or Glide Leaf, so you can pull that out and drift back to the safety of the Star Plant. If you don’t have either of these, you fall. And if you fall and you haven’t been near a checkpoint in a while, it can get tedious.
Even with the common setback like that, this game is short. Once you’ve collected all the crystals, picked all the flowers, seen all there is to see in this game, it’s satisfying. It makes you want more. Currently, this game is single player. If this game could be furbished to be a bit smaller, it would be great to have some local multiplayer game modes or something. Maybe we’ll see something like that in the future.
The graphics in this game are phenomenal. Although the poly is super low on the map, it actually translates into its own type of simplistic art style. I’m not sure if it’s like that on purpose or if it has to do with the INSANELY huge map, but I love it. Every once in a while the sun will set over the horizon and the entire map just changes colour to this fantastic shade of orange, then purple, then an inky soft blue, it’s gorgeous! I played it with graphics set as low as they can go and the graphics were still incredibly beautiful. When you look down at the ground from your spot on the Star Plant, you can see everything below you. Sometimes when I was playing I would stop climbing and look down at my progress so far. However, you can’t expect a game with such a huge map to have perfect framerate, the FPS was low with this one.
The sound effects in this game were pretty darn clever. When you communicate with the artificial intelligence of the red ship mentioned earlier named “M.O.M.”, there is a half static half painful shrieking noise that comes out of BUD’s speakers for a second that is clearly identified as an old fashioned modem dial up noise that has been edited a bit to sound a little better. Those are my favourite parts.
Simply put, Grow Home is a fun little game. It’s not such a big game that you would spend more than a couple days playing it, but even after you’ve finished the story there is plenty to do afterward. I really hope Ubisoft takes Grow Home and keeps going with it. Perhaps even a sequel with some multiplayer. Who knows, only time will tell.
***A PC code was provided by the publisher***