Grow Home Review Price:
Grow Home is probably the best five pounds you'll ever spend on anything. This delightful little game costs less than a fish supper, and is infinitely more beneficial to your wellbeing. After playing it on Sunday night I couldn't sleep because the Joker-like grin plastered on my face caused my head to prop awkwardly on my pillow, as if I had a slice of watermelon stuffed into my mouth. That's how good Grow Home is.
It's fitting that we should begin by talking about big smiles, because Ubisoft Reflections' game puts you in control of the happiest robot in the universe, codenamed B.U.D (short for Botanical Utility Droid). Bud is deployed onto a verdant planet to retrieve a seed from the Star Plant, a flower that grows to stratospheric heights. Overseen from orbit by M.O.M (Mobile Omni Mind) Bud's mission is to grow the Star Plant, climb to the top, and collect a seed sample from the blooming flower.
It's a lovely, simple premise, and Grow Home makes itself immediately likeable by getting straight to the point. Within minutes of landing on the idyllic polygonal island where the Star Plant is rooted, Bud has begun the process of climbing and growing the plant. These two actions make up the majority of the 3-4 hours you'll likely spend in Bud's company.
As a climbing game Grow Home is straightforward yet captivating. Bud's movements are entirely procedurally animated, meaning his limbs react to real-time physical forces rather than relying on pre-recorded animations. Consequently Bud moves like a Jenga tower on a jelly skateboard. Watching him wobble around on terra-firma, arms lagging slightly behind him, is exceptionally charming.
Yet when it comes to climbing, Bud doesn't mess about. Pressing the left or right trigger of your gamepad (you can use keyboard and mouse, but a pad is definitely the best way to play the game) causes Bud to grip whatever surface he's facing with the respective hand. Moving the analogue stick then directs his free hand in whatever direction you require, while the rest of his body figures out what to do on its own. The system takes just a few minutes to learn, and soon you'll be snaking up the great green stem of the Star Plant with ease.
The procedural animations aren't seamless. Bud occasionally gets tangled up in himself, and it's extremely difficult to climb underneath a surface, partly due to the rather excitable camera. But for the most part he moves with an impressively fluid rhythm, scrambling along slopes on his hands and feet, leaping between leaves and making heart-stopping ledge-grabs as he dangles thousands of feet in the air.