Platform Reviewed – PS4
Developer – Ubisoft Reflections
Release Date – 1st September 2015
Verdict – Vining for Glory
Grow Home is a Ubisoft product. It’s original, stripped down and delightful. There’s also less of that Uplay nonsense shoved down your throat. With that it’s hard to believe it is a product of a company so dedicated to in game advertisements and over over-stuffed open worlds. I like Ubisoft’s random partnering with indie developers. Next year’s Unravel looks to continue the trend but let’s focus on the now and Grow Home.
You play as B.U.D, a robot tasked with finding resources on planets and bringing them back to his spaceship. To get to that spaceship requires growing giant vines from the ground up, entwining with each other, creating branching pathways until you reach your ship. A simple idea then but very well executed. Grow Home is an exploration game that makes you feel like you’re playing a game. Grow Home gives you an objective, a reason to explore. Its vibrant world feels alive with subtle background ambience and choice sound effects propelling the action nicely. What’s nice is that this is the first game since Journey that you feel attached to the world and compelled to get the main protagonist to the end. Recent trends of ”walking simulators” have dampened the whimsical exploration adventures with dour trudges that have underwhelmed yours truly. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is mostly responsible and I hope that’s where it ends.
Grow Home does have a few problems. B.U.D’s climbing involves alternating use of the L1 and R1 which works well when it wants to. Quite often grabbing the vines didn’t register which results in an unwanted base jump. Getting back to where you were can be tedious but I recommend searching for the checkpoint areas as you will come to really appreciate them. The camera doesn’t always help either. Sometimes it has a mind of its own when you want it to go where you want. This unfortunately reveals some graphical flaws that do well in minimising the immersion the world does so well to create. Also the camera zoom out option is pointless because it goes too far out for you to ever want to use.
Grow Home isn’t without its flaws but it’s a fresh new spin on experimental, exploration open world gameplay. And like Journey it gives you reason to want to explore and achieve the goal of reaching a destination. Stick around to the end and you’ll be genuinely surprised with the thought that has gone into making you want to return to the world for another visit.