Review: Grow Home

Posted by on October 29th, 2015 | 7 Comments | Tags: ,

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.

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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.

General Info

  • Framerate drops.
  • Scale.

  • AlecJ

    This game bored me to death in 15 minutes. I played it for a couple hours thinking it would get better after hearing all the buzz. It didnt.

    Either there is a bad case of group think propping up this one dimensional slog of bad climbing mechanics, or there is something going on behind the scenes that is making gaming journalists write glowing reviews for this clunker.

    Its barely a game. Its tedious. Its aimless.

    4 1/2 stars?…what, you though 5 would be too obvious? Not to be snarky, but i just dont get it.

    Grow Home was so over hyped by game journalists that i bet it killed the Playstation’s PS+ “Vote to Play”. Sony probably realized making gamers vote for games sight unseen leaves PS+ members the victims of pre release review biases.

    • Eric G

      Thanks for the read and the comment! I guess the game isn’t for you. I personally found it nice to play something ‘aimless’ for a few hours and enjoy the sights/sounds.

      Is there another game you would have rather seen win the Vote to Play contest? I do think the reviews weighed on people’s decisions to vote for Grow Home, but I’m not sure everyone was as disappointed as you are with the game.

      Are you currently playing anything in the same vein as Grow Home, but better? I’m curious.

    • AlecJ

      Thanks for responding. Its rare and refreshing to hear what a reviewer thinks…. about what we think.

      After playing them all i found the other two games, both superior to Grow Home, but for very different reasons. I personally liked “Zombie Vikings” best, but Armello was interesting and its gameplay seemed like it went very deep.

      You are definitely, correct. There were plenty of people who enjoyed Grow Home, but in the interest of my grumpy mood (at the time) i felt it necessary to ignore all of them. How long did you end up putting into it?

      I guess i prefer games with more direction. I spend some time with Minecraft here and there, but its not really my jam. If im going to space out and play something with a podcast or music on, Id rather wander around the Destiny universe completing missions.

      Well, thanks again for taking the time to write back. You’re positive response in the face of my snarky comment was quite nice and a reminder that there are good journalists. I apologize for ranting instead of honestly asking questions. Ill definitely be looking for your writing in the future.

    • Eric G

      No problem. I’m pretty sure journalism should be a discussion that includes developers, publishers, writers, and readers. I always encourage responding, even if the responses are snarky/ranty. It’s all good. I think I’ve spent 6-8 hours in Grow Home? Not 100% positive on that.

      Zombie Vikings is hilarious. I love the characters, the story, and the art. It’s no surprise that the Stick it to The Man team can put together a wacky, humorous game. I haven’t played it much since about a week after its release, but the online coop was pretty inert if I remember correctly. Even when it wasn’t buggy, we didn’t have a great time playing. Maybe I’m a bit burned out on beat ’em ups; it’s a tough genre to do something new in.

      I found Armello more convoluted than deep, but again, I haven’t played it much since its release. They recently toyed with some features and in the near future they’re releasing some more content. I may go back and play it again. The length of online matches (1+hr) and the fact that the game was either definitely one-sided (I know who’s going to win for 40 minutes) or super swingy (somehow I went from last place to first place in the last 10 minutes) made me shy away from playing it more.

      Add me on PSN (eeease) and maybe we can get an Armello match going.

    • AlecJ

      ill do that. Thanks, Eric.

  • I finished the game, but it was a bit buggy. I wanted to get all of the crystals, but one was on top of one of the trees. That tree broke when I was climbing it, then clipped through the terrain, making it impossible to get all 100 crystals. It was also quite annoying trying to drag animals to the teleporter pad and finding it nearly impossible because your character couldn’t keep a grip on them while flying.

    I do wish Armello or Zombie Vikings had won, because those are much more expensive, and extensive games. This was a little cheap $8 thing if you didn’t have PS+.

    • Eric G

      I had some trouble dragging the animals, too! One of the plants has a funny description about how heavy it is. MOTHER is impressed that you could drag it all the way to the teleporter.

      That’s unfortunate about the 100th crystal. Is there a trophy or other benefit to getting them all? Just personal completionism?