Grow Home (PC) Review

By Thomas Wrobel 20.04.2015

Review for Grow Home on PC

Grow Home is about controlling a little robot around a pretty polygon environment in an attempt to get home. This is done by guiding towering stalks to reach new locations, navigating the strange landscape and constantly trying to avoid falling to almost certain doom. Will this budding plant themed platformer grow on players, or will the quirky controls make people simply grown like a bad pun? Find out below…

Grow Home is very welcoming with its warm non-textured polygon graphics. From the first moments, it's pleasant to look at, with its simple style almost being a stress relief from the somewhat data-intense world. Without much in the way of a cut-scene or back-story, a little robot is dropped to the surface of a planet and the game begins. The robot is called "BUD" - Botanical Utility Droid - and in many ways the gameplay is all about learning to control this character, which is partly down to the unique way the game's controls work.

While most games use pre-made animations, Grow Home uses procedural animations. With procedural animation, the in-game models move their limbs with a sense of intelligence and weight - not merely running fixed pre-determined animations, letting them respond to the environment better and, thus, be more realistic. Normally.

Screenshot for Grow Home on PC

In the case of Grow Home, however, the technique is used to give exaggerated, cartoon-like movements, where BUD flails about madly in a fairly hilarious way. Initially, it's fun merely to run around with the robot, skidding and changing directions. If Mario controls like a skilled acrobat catering to every whim, BUD controls like a clumsy, drunk guy on a unicycle.

That doesn't make the game frustrating, though, as BUD doesn't face anywhere near the precision challenges Mario does. At least, not when moving about on the ground. Much of the platforming challenge comes with the climbing mechanic, which is also pretty unique. Any wall or surface can be climbed, and this is done by alternatively grabbing with BUD's left and right hand, while pressing the desired direction to go. Thus, by grabbing a wall and building up a rhythm, BUD slickly and dramatically changes from a flailing drunk guy into an almost competent Spider-Man.

It is quite satisfying to get the hang of clambering up things. Small targets on the surface show where exactly BUD's hands are going to grab, and once clutched with one hand, it's then safe to release his other, giving a rather precise sense of control...even if it is one that results in making it very easy to mess up and fall. Even when falling, though, the mechanic can provide some satisfaction - if BUD is lucky, maybe an arm can reach some surface, grab it, and swing him back to a secure position. Seldom does a game give so much control - for better or worse - over its climbing element.

Screenshot for Grow Home on PC

A large part of the adventure involves using this climbing method to navigate around stems of giant plants. The goal is to reach flowering points on them, and then take control of them briefly, making their stem extend and twist in any direction desired to reach new floating islands. This is the second major unique thing about Grow Home. The plant being controlled is huge and dominates the landscape, effectively meaning that over time its shape will be strongly influenced by how its grown, and each player will end up with a unique game environment.

This is a fun and effective concept, let down slightly by frustration caused by falling down far and needing to spend a long period moving back upwards. While the climbing controls are nicely done in themselves, they are not quick. If a long climb is needed, some might find their attention drifting, to the point of losing interest. Fortunately, if the stems are made to reach certain platforms, there are teleporters that provide shortcuts at least part of the way back. It's quite essential to unlock these as soon as possible if maintaining a shred of sanity is desired.

Screenshot for Grow Home on PC

Overall, Ubisoft's Reflections team has made something that is somewhat like the Metroid Prime games, if the shooting was replaced by scaling heights. It's about exploring the world, opening up new areas, finding secrets, and trying to reach energy crystals needed for upgrades. Unlike Metroid, these upgrades are not strictly essential but do help significantly in controlling BUD's movement. One early upgrade helps exploration quite a bit, although, disappointingly, won't save BUD from falling as much as would be expected.

Sadly, the game is nowhere near as vast or as diverse as a typical Metroid outing, either, which is perhaps to be expected from a budget title, but it's still a letdown that the game has effectively just one environment, very little gameplay variation, and barely a whiff of story. Maybe its biggest sin is that it is an exploration game with not much to actually find, with just a small handful of plants and animals. For the most part, though, merely seeing the landscape is the reward for getting somewhere. Despite that, at less than $8 / £6, Grow Home provides enough value for money. For gamers looking for gentle exploration - and are willing to learn quirky controls - it's well worth a purchase.

Screenshot for Grow Home on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For those with patience to get the hang of the quirky controls, Grow Home provides a lot to like. It's a cute game with nice ideas and a somewhat relaxed atmosphere. It's certainly pleasing to see a big publisher like Ubisoft trying out fresh ideas and, in Grow Home's case, it pays off well. The title only disappoints fundamentally in terms of its length - not because it's bad value at $8/£6, but because it causes cravings for more. With any luck maybe Ubisoft will see fit to take Reflections' project's little seed and grow a more fully-fledged game from it, because the ideas and style shown deserve to be seen again.

Developer

Reflections

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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