by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Like a fairytale
Grow Home has you taking the role of a Botanical Utility Droid (aka BUD), a rather unsteady robot tasked with exploring a new world and growing a plant found within. This plant, known as a Star Plant, has all the hallmarks of Jack’s Beanstalk, growing up high into the atmosphere. The world he explores is made up of dozens of floating islands, most of which can only be accessed by growing the aforementioned beanstalk-like flora. BUD climbs his way up the Star Plant and can then explore further.
Up he climbs…
And our intrepid robot will be doing heaps of beanstalk climbing as he ascends up into the heavens. As he climbs the Star Plant, BUD will come across flower buds and giant leaves. The giant leaves can be used to springboard his way up the stalk, whilst the flower buds - when activated - provide BUD with a bucking bronco-like ride as they grow and wind their way around towards their eventual destination. Whilst on the numerous islands, BUD will also have to put his climbing skills to good use as he scales up the sides of mountains in search of the highly important crystals that are scattered amongst the islands.
Apart from all the climbing that is required, BUD also has the use of his special jetpack. Once activated - after acquiring the required amount of crystals - this jetpack can be used as a boost to reach desired destinations, either vertically or horizontally. Collecting more crystals improves the jetpack’s abilities, so it pays to explore more thoroughly in order to find the crystals. Unfortunately, the jetpack only has a small amount of fuel and can only be used for small distances. Luckily, BUD can also collect special flowers which act as Mary Poppins umbrella and allow BUD to float slowly to the ground rather than hurtle to his death. Again, the flower only has a limited lifespan as its petals fall out indicating how much longer it will last. Further up, BUD will also have access to a leaf glider, which lets him cruise through the skies.
As mentioned, climbing is a major part of the game, whether it be ascending the beanstalk or traversing the cliff face. And the control scheme (I played using the keyboard and mouse combo, but a controller can also be used) works really well. As BUD climbs, each of the two mouse buttons controls each arm, so holding down the left mouse button will have the effect of having BUD clinging with his left hand. Vice-versa for his right hand. Alternating the left and right mouse buttons and choosing a direction is all that is required for BUD to climb in any direction you so desire. Climbing is actually the part of the game where BUD excels, as compared to when he’s walking as he seems somewhat unsteady on his feet. This rigidness is never more evident when the ground is uneven, as he wobbles from side to side. Indeed even momentum has an effect on BUD, as it takes a bit of time before BUD can halt any forward progress on a slight downward slope.
Visually, Grow Home is reminiscent of older PS1/PSX titles such as Spyro the Dragon or Crash Bandicoot, with its polygonal lines and colourful settings. The settings come alive with vibrant butterflies and fauna such as sheep and dodo-like creatures, although the purpose of which seems only for comedic value when you place them over the spouts and watch them shoot into the air. Day and night cycles make the Grow Home eco-system feel more alive. Indeed, the retro feel is further realised with the music and sound effects. The digitised backdrop and squeaks and beeps of BUD certainly fit in well with the nature of the game.
One for all ages
Grow Home is a game that can be played by all ages. It doesn’t overly punish you for dying. After falling into a crumpled mass of scrap metal or drowning in the vast amount of water surrounding the starting island, BUD gets teleported to the most recently discovered teleport device and can continue his journey of exploring the eco-system from there. Yes, there will be more climbing involved, but at least the only dangers involved are environmental ones. The game is on the short side, unless you explore the locations fully in search of all the crystals, which could then add hours upon your journey. The simple controls along bright, colourful visuals mean that Grow Home is a game that anyone can pick up and play. And once playing, growing the Star Plant so that it reaches BUD’s home is rather rewarding… just like Jack reaching the Giant’s castle at the top of his beanstalk.
Simple enough for all gamers to enjoy