Time to grow up. Fun intended!
Prepare to be dropped off on a planet filled with big polygons and cuteness. When you think about deep space exploration, you’d probably figure in gadgets like computers, robots, and drones. They are not bound by lifespan the same way we are. Days turn into decades, and eventually decades roll over into eons. Artificially intelligent sentient machines seem better suited with the task of seeking out life sustaining planets and mankind saving resources. This is exactly the case in Ubisoft’s Grow Home. You assume the role of the robot B.U.D. whose purpose is finding and handling life forms. He either scans their vitals or transports them directly to the mothership through a Star Trek-like teleporter device.
You drop in on this particular planet because it houses a Star Plant known to sprout potent Star Seeds. These seem important to M.O.M., the artificial intelligence driving the mission. As B.U.D., the Botanical Utility Droid and knight in shining armor in Grow Home, you are concerned with making the Star Plant grow up into to the stratosphere where the mothership is hovering. This giant beanpole would make Jack blush. To reach such amazing heights, you have to climb the plant using your clamper hands and stimulate the growth of the flowers you find. The flowers turn into rampantly growing vines. B.U.D. can control the direction in which they sprout. He needs to make these vines reach and connect to Energy Rocks that float in the air at varying altitudes. These specific rocks, which have a green bottom before they are sapped of their life, get harder to reach the further up you go in the game.
Your quest starts on a tiny island. Looking around, it seems Grow Home is going to be a small chore and finish pretty quickly until you peer upwards to find there are multiple islands and dozens of huge rocks floating above you in the air. The sandbox design of the game, in which you can interact with the environment in different ways, makes you feel very little pressure in finishing tasks in a timely manner. M.O.M. will even compliment you on how well you’re doing when you inadvertently destroy yourself. She’ll happily re-deploy you with a new body. The only real ways to destroy yourself are by getting excessively wet, falling really far, or getting obliterated by a few of the local plants.
Although the gravity of your situation can seem daunting as you close in on the stratosphere, you will gain some skills and gear that will aid you in not going splash in the ocean, or kaboom on the ground. As you collect crystals that are almost hidden around the map, you will gain additional abilities. Your first crystal gives you the power to jump. Eventually you will get a rocket pack and then power ups for it. Also, if you pick up a massive flower, you can use it as a parachute as its pedals peel away, like Mary Poppins. There are other plants and leaves that act as catapults and spring boards. All of these different objects and upgrades make moving around the map easier as constant climbing can be taxing on your fingers.
The sleek art design gives Grow Home most of its visual appeal. The sound is sufficient and subtle. B.U.D. is interesting to work with as he fumbles around and trips because of how light he is. At some point in the game, you will be so high that you will lose track of which way is up. Try to keep one of those Mary Poppins flowers around at all times for when this happens. Also, B.U.D. is just straight up clumsy, so you will want to have a safety net. The sensibilities of B.U.D., the way that M.O.M. coddles him, and the easy-going animal and plant life that occupy this planet take the stress out of playing — to the point where it could be boring. This mellow aspect of the game is offset by the primal fears of falling to your death and drowning.
The spirit of Grow Home lies in its unforced exploration, leisurely collecting of items, and experiencing those “oh $H#@” moments as B.U.D. loses his grip or you miss your jump at 2000 meters in the air. There is added value to the game as you unlock skins with abilities and other items. After the end credits, you also have the choice of accepting an extra mission. All of these features add to Grow Home’s appeal as a special game where it pays to be curious and daring, and you are properly rewarded if you are thorough.