Title: Grow Home
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Price: $7.99 (FREE For PS Plus Members In September)
Grow Home is unlike any other game I've played. In this unique adventure from developer Ubisoft Reflections, you assume the role of a Botanical Utility Droid (B.U.D. for short) whose mission is to harvest a special seed from an alien world in order to oxygenate his home planet. The only seed that will suffice comes from a giant vine called the Star Plant, and the only way to harvest the seed is to make the plant grow up to 2,000 meters. Strangely enough, that's the exact altitude at which B.U.D.'s spaceship waits in orbit above the planet.
If the Star Plant is to reach such lofty heights, you must first mount one of its red-budded shoots and press the Square button to make it grow outward. If you can manage to steer the shoot into a special floating green rock, then the Star Plant will grow a little higher. As the vine ascends toward the heavens, you'll encounter even more floating rocks, some of which are more like suspended islands complete with plant and animal life, caves, and even waterfalls. All of this is presented in a graphical style that is simple and polygonal, but also strikingly colorful and beautiful. The game's day/night cycle and impressive lighting effects make for some satisfying visuals.
Controlling B.U.D. takes some getting used to; he can walk and jump, just like any platforming character, but he seems to get a little overzealous at times. When walking, he moves as if he is having trouble keeping up with his own feet, and he isn't easily slowed once he gains momentum. This actually becomes part of the challenge of Grow Home — keeping B.U.D.'s movements in check, lest he falls to his death. B.U.D. can also climb up any surface, which is one of Grow Home's core gameplay mechanics. You can hold down either of the trigger buttons to grab onto a wall, and then alternate with the left and right trigger buttons to climb upwards, controlling his left and right arms, respectively. I found it to be a very intuitive and interesting approach to climbing in a video game.
As you progress through the game, you will have the option of collecting up to 100 crystals that are scattered throughout the game world. Collecting enough crystals will unlock a limited — but very useful — jet pack ability, which can be upgraded as you collect even more crystals. Furthermore, if B.U.D. finds a flower, he can store it and use it as a parasol for gliding, in case of emergency.
One of the most frustrating things that can happen in Grow Home is when you make significant progress only to fall and have to start over. This happened to me more times than I would have liked. Even when I felt like I should have been able to grab the nearest rock or vine, sometimes B.U.D. just wouldn't comply. Fortunately, there are intermittent checkpoints which also serve as teleportation hubs. If you do fall and die, you restart at the highest checkpoint reached. If you fall and survive, you can always teleport your way back up. There's even a PlayStation trophy for surviving a fall of 1,000 meters or more. That's a fun one to attempt, as you get to see some cool stuff on your way down.
Grow Home caught me by surprise. I loved exploring this world along with B.U.D., and I was consistently curious to see what was over the next rise. Even though I suffered an inordinate number of frustrating falls, the game kept my interest for all 2,000 meters. It may be a relatively short game, but I’d argue that it's just the right length.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of Grow Home
- Unique gameplay
- Striking visuals
- Sense of discovery
- Falling. So...much...falling!