Did you ever play Grow Home? It was a PS+ game in September last year and if you missed the game on console or PC you missed quite the treat. It is a game about a little robot named BUD (Botanical Utility Droid) that needs to grow a Star Plant: a plant so massive it can break through the clouds like a certain guy’s beanstalk, if it is fed enough power.
No? You missed that? That’s a shame. Because it was a really enjoyable adventure from Ubisoft Reflections, a game made by a tiny team that was originally planned as an internal release, but everyone fell in love with BUD and M.O.M. BUD is a charming robot that hardly looks ready for exploring vast alien worlds. With his tiny hands and wobbly bipedal legs, there is so much charm in controlling a character that seems to battle to do simple tasks like walking and jumping. As you progress you learn how to handle BUD’s quirks and shortcomings and though he is a terrible walker, can the little guy climb things. In most games climbing involves almost no effort from the player. Hold in up and another button. Press A a few times to jump from obviously telegraphed handholds, or the like. Not BUD. Your triggers and analogue sticks control his hands and you need to methodically grip on a wall or ceiling, get your next hand in place, grip the wall, release the other hand, pull it up or over and so on and so forth. At first it feels slow and cumbersome, until you get into the swing of it and feel like you are actually climbing whatever massive object you are scrabbling up. You also have full control of your path up or around objects, letting you find the most efficient route up, or allowing you to make detours as you please for a collectible or great vista.
Grow Up! builds on the skills you learnt in Grow Home, but don’t fret if you don’t remember or you skipped the previous game. My biggest issue with the previous game was how difficult it was top find some of the collectibles. Now besides an easy to hear audio clue your new companion will help you get a better view. This handy little satellite, POD, gives you a bird’s eye view of the world, letting you plot waypoints or see where collectibles, challenges and objectives are. Now you can check if something is hiding in the lee of the hill you are on, or maybe just underneath you.
Another new feature that helps you get around the crazy world you are on is the ability to scan plants and grow them where you want. Add a jumping mushroom to reach that cave ceiling, or a long stalked plant to climb up a gap that is too large to jump up to. The higher you get the better the plants are at shooting you around, making finding all of them exciting. I have never been so excited about finding a new type of plant ever before.
Grow Up! is a slightly short jaunt, but its pace is enjoyable. Before any one task gets too arduous or repetitive you reach your ultimate goal, with the game happily pointing out all the challenges and collectibles you missed on the way. Within five hours you can amass 60 or so energy shards, unlock all your abilities, catalogue every plant and finish the game. But then you miss out on the many challenges that POD has set up for you, or just exploring with your new power-ups and plants, which make places that once looked completely inaccessible or like daunting challenges as easy to reach as your very first jumping mushroom.
If you ever wished you could be more like Wall-E, or perhaps the idea of massive, throbbing phallus-shaped Star Plants growing as your direct and ram their heads into glowing rocks excites you, you should give Grow Up! a try. Seriously, I can kill a cactus, so I don’t have a green thumb at all, but this game, suddenly I don’t mind being a plant cultivator and just flying around.