Review: Grow Home
I had seen promotional materials for Grow Home before its release. I felt some of the buzz, heard some hearsay, but since I don’t play games on my computer, I didn’t get a chance to try it out until it released on PSN. Grow Home won September’s PS+ Vote to Play contest (probably due to the aforementioned buzz), beating out Armello and Zombie Vikings. It’s a good thing that it did win out over the competition; in most accounts, it’s a fantastic game that I’m glad got in the hands of as many players as possible.
In Grow Home, you play as B.U.D., a Botanical Utility Droid. MOTHER has tasked you to seek out and grow a gigantic stalk known as the Star Plant in order to oxygenate your home planet. You begin on the shore of a rocky island. The game quickly teaches you the basics of moving and climbing, then lets sets you off to explore this colorful, beautiful world all by yourself. You’ll be okay. You’re a big droid. You can handle it.
Simply running around as B.U.D. is an enjoyable experience. He wobbles left and right and almost loses his footing every other sharp turn. I was reminded of the wacky movement in Octodad: Dadliest Catch, though this game doesn’t require nearly as many button presses to complete actions. This game is a shining example of free-climbing done right. When you approach any object, red and blue handprints show up on them, signifying that you can clutch whatever it is you’re near. Either of the left shoulder buttons will grip with B.U.D.’s left hand, while the same is true of the right shoulder buttons. Alternating L and R while directing with the left analogue stick sets you climbing wherever you want to climb. The freedom of hanging from a stalactite underneath a floating rocky island is exhilarating, especially while in pursuit of a coveted crystal.
In order to grow the Star Plant, B.U.D. must climb onto one of its flowering stems and ride it into a glowing island. When contact is made, the Star Plant sucks the glowy juice out of the island and uses it to grow taller. It’s wonderful. Focusing on just growing the plant won’t get you much playtime out of Grow Home. If you have but an inkling of adventuring spirit, though, you’ll likely be drawn by some of the sidetracking objectives. Crystals are embedded in the ground, on the tops of trees, and in the sides of floating islands. Up until a recent patch, the only way to find these crystals was to explore. There are completion percentage checkpoints for collecting the crystals, each one unlocking a new-ish ability the help B.U.D. climb to the top of the Star Plant. Once you unlock the ability to zoom out, crystal hunting gets easier. Also, in a recent patch, sparkly music has been added that plays ever-louder the closer you get to a crystal. It’s a helpful hinting that’s similar to the clinking noise in Sly Cooper when you’re near a bottle. The other major sidequest in Grow Home is filling out the Data Bank. Collect fauna and flora from the world and drag it into a teleporter to study it and unlock a usually humorous description of what it is.
There’s a lot to like about Grow Home, especially if you’re into exploration games with a unique aesthetic. The main pang that I felt is when the game ended. There’s an additional quest to go on in order to further help MOTHER, but it requires re-exploring the same world you’ve presumably already combed over on your way up the Star Plant. The whole game plays like it would fit as one world in a (3D)Super Mario game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (especially given the price). However, I wish I could grow to another planet and play on that one or grow to a far-off island and tend to a garden there. The screen-tearing is forgivable, but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that there’s a part, albeit a small part, missing from the whole. Perhaps a multiplayer component? A practical application of the day/night cycle? A camera mode similar to the one in Submerged? I’m not sure. But for something that started as a tech toy for its developers, Grow Home turned out to be a stellar piece; one full of adventure and devoid of violence.
A copy of this game was purchased (for free through PlayStation +) for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Cheeky (yet gentle) dialogue.
What I Dislike:
- Framerate drops.