A few too many.
When I finally got around to playing the first Grow Home game, it wasn’t because I had any desire to check out the game itself. The idea of a physics-based puzzler where the main protagonist frolicked clumsily across an uneven terrain wasn’t even the slightest bit appealing to me. It sounded tedious and frustrating. However, when the game went free on PS Plus, I gave it a shot, much like any other game in the sea of releases. It wasn’t bad. In fact, I spent a solid 3-4 hours digging around before I lost interest.
When Ubisoft announced a sequel was coming, I was intrigued. Could this little platformer correct the mistakes of the first game, while also the same charm as the original? The answer to that is a mixed bag of “what ifs” and “almosts.” Grow Up is essentially the same mechanics thrown into a grander scale. Mixtures of open-world ideas and tacked-on challenges flood an otherwise simplistic idea. Grow Up is not a better game, but it is also not worse. It is simply there.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $4.99
Players once again take on the role of B.U.D., a clumsy robot who seems oblivious to the grand tasks ahead of him. He still controls like he just finished closing out the bar, and the mechanics remain pretty much untouched. Players will run, jump, and climb across a larger environment, gain upgrades, and work towards the ultimate goal of repairing their ship for the journey home.
The game still controls by letting players grip objects in the world by pressing the left and right triggers for each hand. It is still cumbersome and inaccurate, and I found myself falling over and over again at the most inopportune times. Grow Up does remedy some of this by offering upgrades at a more frequent pace. The air brakes for instance are a game changer early on, while the jetpack is still the de facto solution to most problems.
Crystals are still collected and used to upgrade abilities, but are not the focus this time around. Instead, B.U.D. must find pieces of his ship in order to get home. There is a new mechanic that involves scanning and replicating plant life on the world. This gives our robot hero the ability to grow any of these plants at will, which can then be used to spring off of, or simply climb up. Like everything else in the game these are sporadic at best. I found myself launching into oblivion, completely missing my target at times. The charm quickly switches to frustration more often than it should.
The Ubisoft touch is felt more in this sequel though. The world is open, which means there has to be challenges to complete. For a game that controls the way it does, and oftentimes relies on luck mixed with chance, adding in skill-based challenges seems like a recipe for disaster. In practice they truly are just that, but their rewards are only cosmetic in a sense, thus negating their necessity in the grand scheme of completing the game.
The game retains the same simplistic look of the first title, but with all the same performance issues. Games using the Unity engine continue to prove a problem for both modern consoles. The frame rate can chug at times, and zooming out on the world map can become a slideshow. Still it was never game breaking, and from what I hear all of these issues are resolved on PC, so if you have the option for that platform, and simply want more of what Grow Home offered, that is likely the best option.
Grow Up is a lot more of the same and with little fanfare I feel most have already forgotten the original, let alone know the sequel even exist. Still, for $10 it is hard not to recommend this charming adventure for those that can deal with its frustrations. There is a sense of completionism involved in the way the game tracks progress, and let’s face it, B.U.D. is an extremely lovable character.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.