A few weeks ago, I was a little under the weather. More than that, I had the flu and wasn’t really capable of doing many things, like homework, reading, or even just eating. Yeah, it was not fun. And while I wasn’t able to do any thought provoking activities, I did find a game that was simple, cheap, and definitely what I needed to get through my illness.
Grow Home was released by Ubisoft on the fourth of this month, and it was certainly a strange release for the company. It was originally developed as an experimental project by eight people, and after being released internally, the company decided to give it a full release. Grow Home wasn’t released with a huge amount of publicity or hype, it was first mentioned less than two weeks before release, then appeared on Steam—without Uplay support I might add, and for only eight dollars. It’s certainly a left field release for such a huge publisher, and while it may not be the same experience as an Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry game, maybe that’s a good thing.
Now, you start the game as a cute red robot called B.U.D. as he’s being launched from the mother ship, which occasionally messages him and is called M.O.M.. The goal is simple; there is a plant, and it is your job to grow the plant to 2,000 meters. However, as you are falling down those 2,000 meters, through an asteroid field and a floating oasis, you’re unsure how you’re even supposed to get back home. When you finally land on a small beach, you finally get to control B.U.D., who I soon realized is the goofiest looking character I’ve ever seen. His animations are procedural, meaning his body reacts with his world in non scripted ways, creating the funniest movements. Every time I press an arrow key, B.U.D.’s torso starts to fling in a direction as his legs catch up to follow, all while his arms stick out in this forward position like a young child begging for something and screaming “gimme, gimme, gimme.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ubisoft game if you couldn’t climb, which B.U.D. does with ease. His controls allow for both hands to be controlled separately, and it’s strange, but you get an odd sense of control and maneuverability even though he’s floaty and goofy looking.
The game really starts, however, when you learn how to grow the plant by controlling the growth of stems coming out of the main plant and creating branches to skewer “Energy Rocks,” which are floating glowing islands. The plant is the center of your trip through this world in terms of story and movement. Leaves on the plant allow you to jump high up in the air, and stems can grow off of the branches you create, allowing for even more stems and leaves. The resulting plant is massive, with a web of branching paths that you created. I think this game’s best design feature is its use of vertical space and how you can traverse this world. In the game, there are small crystals you can collect; even just getting a quarter of them unlocks the jetpack, an invaluable tool that allows for controlled descent or higher jumps. Additionally, a flower or small leaf can be picked up and used, the first working much like a parachute while the other working like a glider. Traversing the world skillfully however isn’t a requirement, as the game is pretty free form and forgiving. There are only a few ways to die, being crushed by the handful of optional hazards in the game or falling from a large height, the both of which are pretty difficult—but if it does occur, you respawn at the last activated teleportation pad scattered throughout the world. In fact, you could spend the entire game hugging the tree and spearing Energy Rocks to completion, but where’s the fun in that? The world is beautiful, with its minimalist cel-shaded graphics and interesting terrain, native plants, and animal life.
This game is short; I put in 11 hours so far and all I have left is to collect the upgrade crystals, but I definitely think it was more than worth the eight dollars I put into it, and it made my unbearable sickness much more comfortable. If anything I mentioned even remotely interests you, I suggest looking at some gameplay and seeing for yourself just how adorable and pretty the game is. It’s by no means a must-own or groundbreaking, but it’s a cheap, quick-and-easy distraction that could make you ignore even the worst of circumstances.