by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
BUD and the beanstalks
I really loved the original Grow Home. The fresh but simple controls and the relaxing gameplay made climbing to the top of the ever-growing Star Plant a real joy. The Jack and the Beanstalk idea of an unending climb had the potential to be boring but the exploration involved with finding all the power crystals and the variety in vegetation reduced that significantly. Grow Up retains much of the same patterns as the original, but adds a few new features and collectibles into the mix.
Grow Up starts with our adorable hero BUD (short for Botanical Utility Droid) immediately after reuniting with his mothership (known as M.O.M) from the first game. Unfortunately, things go awry and the mothership explodes over a strange planet, falling to pieces. From there, BUD sets outs on a similar journey to collect all the scattered pieces of spacecraft on this new world. Like the previous game, BUD will be doing plenty of climbing and, if things don't go to plan, falling, as he moves from one floating island to the next, growing Star Plants and collecting the spacecraft parts and other collectibles. The planet is again full of native, yet strange flora and BUD will spend much of his time exploring and discovering each of the different varieties.
Reaping what you sow
The main difference from the first game is the use of BUD's backpack. In Grow Home, the backpack was the storage place for all of BUD's transportation such as his jetpack, leaf-glider or flower-petal floating device. BUD still has similar iterations of these devices - not to begin with, but he does eventually gain access to them - but instead, his backpack is used to carry seeds. The seeds need to be collected from the different plants scattered around the planet. Once collected, he can then use the seeds to grow the plant. Each plant has varying functionality and can help BUD on his journey. Like the previous game, certain mushrooms will allow BUD to bounce up high into the air, whilst other plants can be used like a catapult, flinging BUD from one floating island to another. I found that the seeds had limited use, as the plant life on the planet is quite plentiful and can be accessed at most points. I could count the number of times I used the seeds on my hands throughout the course of putting all the pieces of M.O.M back together.
Grow Up sees BUD climbing and growing four different Star Plants, as compared to the one huge beanstalk-like plant in the original title. These four Star Plants are, as they say, scattered to the four corners of the globe. Where Grow Home had players climbing the main shoot and branching out, Grow Up requires players to complete a fair few more lateral movements in order to completely circle the planet and reach all the spaceship parts and eventually head to the moon.
Apart from the exploration around the globe in search of ship parts and crystals, Challenges now feature as part of the game. These challenges primarily have BUD using all his skills to navigate his way through a series if checkpoints similar to how you can complete wingsuit challenges in Just Cause 3. These checkpoints can be ticked off in any order, but must be completed in a short time frame. They are a little bit of fun, especially as you gain access to better seeds and backpack skills, but are somewhat repetitive. And apart from gaining new skins for BUD, completing them has little effect on the game and can be skipped altogether without limiting your progress.
Still wobbly on his feet
In terms of movement, BUD hasn't actually grown up too much at all from the original title. When walking, he is still somewhat unsteady on his feet, with momentum playing a big part in his movements. Get him moving forward at pace, and it takes a bit to stop him in order to shift direction. He is still an expert climber though, up there with the likes of Spiderman, as the player controls each of his arms with the left and right mouse buttons, alternating between them as he climbs up the stalk. The seeds can be planted can be used to traverse the world through bouncing, catapulting or floating up whilst holding onto certain seed pods. And of course, there is his trusty backpack which can convert into a glider or Mary Poppins style umbrella device for floating safely to the ground.
Aesthetically, Grow Up retains the colourful, blocky visuals reminiscent of a Playstation (PSX/PSOne) title - think Spyro the Dragon for reference. The planet and the floating islands have a different look from the previous title though, with areas of the planet being separated with different climactic conditions. An arid region is highlighted by the massive Cactus-like Star Plant, whilst a tropical region is accentuated by a flowery tropical plant. Many of the plant shoots that BUD rides on as they grow do seem to have a rather phallic shape, especially that of the cactus Star Plant. The bright colours are accentuated by the lack of colour at the Polar zones at each end of the planet. These areas give off a lifeless feel and are primarily devoid of colour. The background music is reasonably lively, though relaxing, making the player feel that he could be lying on a sunny beach in the Caribbean listening to the steel drums and drinking whatever cocktail is being served. The sound effects are pretty much the same as those used in the first title with plenty of boops and beeps emanating from BUD.
More of the same
I can't really say that the new features have made Grow Up a better game than the original, but they haven't made it worse either. The seed planting can allow BUD to navigate areas a little quicker at times, but most of the plants are largely ineffectual for BUD's mission of growing the Star Plants and finding the spaceship parts. And I guess there must have been complaints about having to deliver the flora and fauna to the checkpoints in the first game, because now you only need to touch the flora in order for them to be added to the plant database. Personally, I found it fun trying to drag an animal or vegetable back to the checkpoints in the original. The different climate zones with their associated plants do add a nice variation in visual styles, though.
All things considered, I did enjoy Grow Up but it doesn't seem to have grown up much at all.
Colourful visuals and simple gameplay mechanics
Backpack seed planting feature is redundant