Grow Home: Review

The irony of an Ubisoft game set entirely around building a tower isn't lost on us. The French publisher has developed such an affection for tall, thin structures in recent years, it was just a matter of time before we either saw a game about them, or one of those top-of-BBC stories about company CEO Yves Guillemot going the whole hog and marrying a pylon.

After climbing them in Assassin’s Creed, sabotaging them in Far Cry, and ramming really expensive cars into them in The Crew, Reflections’ rather different take is to have you make your own. Grow Home is one of Ubisoft’s ‘art projects’, continuing the company’s tradition of allowing small groups to craft miniature affairs that make their triple-A work look pretty rote by comparison.

Handing you the controls to BUD, a skeletal red robot, you’re asked to help cultivate a Star Plant, a gigantic organism that, with enough care and attention,  can bust through its pretty world’s stratosphere and bloom happily in space. It’s cuter than we’ve made it sound.
“A Brilliantly clever mix of octodad-style ragdoll physics and set animations”
What follows sits somewhere between Proteus and Mount Your Friends. Landing on a deserted beach, you’re given very little instruction on what to do, save for the fact that BUD’s hands can hold fast to any surface with a mixture of left and right trigger pulls, it’s incredibly satisfying to climb over, across or even under anything you can get your grabbers on.

Given that finding out how each element of the lush island’s ecosystem works is the be-all and end-all of the game, it’d do Grow Home a disservice to explain exactly what it is you end up doing. Suffice it to say that you’ll be finding equipment, earning upgrades and, best of all, rodeoing plant shoots as they twist and grow, essentially creating your own personal map of the two-kilometre climb back up to the spaceship you BASE-jumped from in the first place.

Once you’ve worked out how to complete your objective, there’s not a huge amount to do a dedicated run-through will be finished in about an hour and a half but, you’re encouraged to look around for longer. Like Proteus, the world reacts to your being there, not least when you’re climbing all over it. There are impossible floating islands, secret caves, hidden animals, curious, interactive flora it’s an ambient treasure trove. BUD’s an adorable centrepiece, a brilliantly clever mix of Octodad-style ragdoll physics and set animations that sees him twisting, scrabbling, and very often plummeting to a fatal crash from a mile above sea level.

Those falls are the game’s only major downside: BUD’s rangy walk can mean you end up tumbling off of tiny walkways through no fault of your own. Couple that with the fact that teleporters your checkpoints and spawn points have to be found and set up, and are often in some tough-to-reach areas, and one fall can lead to a lot of progress being lost in an instant.

But the climb is everything. Where Ubisoft’s made a habit of turning towers into a reward, a scrap of map for your trouble, Grow Home’s version is a map, a puzzle, an atmosphere and a reward all in one. Get that in the next Assassin’s Creed and we’ll call ourselves interested.


Post a Comment