From the developers that are best known for the Driver series, comes the modest little title called Grow Home. You play as B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid) an awkward little robot on a quest to save his own planet by growing a ‘Star Plant’ so that you may harvest its seeds and oxygenate your home world.
And with no more information than that, you’re dropped into an alien world and off you go. The world itself, whilst quite beautiful to look at with its vibrant colours eye pleasing landscape, is essentially blocky and low res affair, reminiscent of an indie title. From the moment you touch down you’ll notice that BUD is quite difficult to control as his movement is quite sluggish and extremely floaty which is vaguely familiar to the smash hit Octodad title, only minus the charm and humour.
Controlling BUD is relatively straight forward but it is highly recommended you use a game pad to play this game. Each trigger controls BUD’s left and right hand and does nothing more than grabbing. This is awkward at first and feels quite clumsy, you’ll probably be falling off things and screaming bloody murder initially but as you get the hang of it things do get better. To ease this difficulty a clever mechanic in place is having each visual representation of your hand a different colour indicator on the surface you’re currently aiming at. With these visual clues you’ll catch on quickly enough because you’ll be doing quite a bit of climbing in this title.
Falls aren’t the end of the world though, firstly there are teleport stations that appear periodically as you progress further up between each set of floating islands, so upon death you’ll just respawn at the latest station, and these are spread out enough that you won’t feel too stifled after a misplaced slip. BUD can also hold onto a large flower which acts as a glider, which can be used to jump between two large gaps or save yourself after a grab gone wrong. It’s limited however but can be replenished but picking another flower which just so happened to be flourishing everywhere on the planet.
Despite its best intentions, the control scheme is more miss than hit. Simply walking around on a surface feels like you’re trying to run on ice wearing wooden clogs, it mostly forces you to slow down your movement, but its made increasing difficult when you’re walking on a thin vine trying not to fall off. When it comes to climbing the star plant, you’ll find that you’ll rarely feel confident enough to not use your grabbing ability.
However, even though progression is slowed down with the game making you think a little bit longer on each step forward, you never feel bogged down with a sense that you’re not achieving anything. There really isn’t a moment where you will feel that you are grinding or not being rewarded for your effort. Exploration is encouraged by placing power crystals around the landscape, as you collect more and more BUD will gain new abilities which gradually make you feel more in control of the game, for example at 40 crystals you’re given a jet pack and seriously who doesn’t love jet packs?
Grow Home is a fun little title and a nice way to melt away a few hours of your life. With each meter grown you feel a sense of achievement, and it’s regular enough that it keeps you coming back for more. There is a lot of frustration to be had here but there’s enough leniency that it won’t discourage you too much from trying again. If this kind of thing sounds likes your cup of tea, you could do a lot worse than checking out Grow Home.