When one thinks of Ubisoft, developers of the Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed series, it’s hard to imagine that the first thing that springs to mind is indie gaming. Yet Grow Home, the latest release from Ubisoft Reflections, strips away the big budgets of its counterparts to deliver a simple yet effective experimental game. It’s also incredibly cute and immensely likeable to boot.
You control the affectionately and appropriately named B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid). Thrust into a foreign world, you’re tasked to climb and grow a ‘Star Plant,’ a giant beanstalk located in the middle of an island, in order to reach your ship and harvest the plant’s seeds. The objective is simple and there’s not much more to the story. As you climb the stalk, you can take control of its fast-growing branches that allow you to reach a series of floating islands, which you may explore on your own volition.
It’s fair to note that the simplistic nature of the game will not appeal to everyone’s tastes. The game lacks a conventional narrative, and those who like to be constantly funneled to their next objective may be put off by the apparent aimlessness of the game. Instead, the game values exploration above all. It’s all about the incidental discoveries you make: move a cluster of rocks and you may find a cave nestled on the mountainside. Journey to the far side of the game’s world and you might stumble upon a lake hidden behind a mountain peak. You’re left to your own devices when you go about exploring, and there’s a handy data bank that keeps track of all the plants and animals that you’ve discovered.
Wandering around, it helps that the game is beautiful to look at. The polygonal landscape is bursting with life and colour. Multitudes of butterflies flutter across the screen at one time and a purplish tinge takes over the sky as day turns to night. Coupled with the light, ethereal electro-pop music that plays in the background, it all makes for a relaxing gaming experience.
All that having been said, the game does come with its fair share of frustrations. The climbing physics in the game take a little bit of getting used to. LB/L1 and RB/R1 act as B.U.D.’s left and right hand, respectively. To climb, you have to alternate between the two buttons pulling yourself up one hand at a time. The controls for the most part are responsive and fluid, but there is a bit of straining involved, particularly when you climb along bigger areas.
This control scheme would be fine were it not it for the minimal margin for error you have while climbing. If you let go of one of the buttons in the midst of your climb, you’ll plummet straight back to the down to the ground. Compounded by an occasionally obstructed camera, one misguided jump will have you starting all over from the nearest solid ground. Admittedly, this tested my patience more than once as I made some clumsy errors. Luckily though, a jetpack does make it easier to try and regain ground while falling, so it never became too much of an issue.
Disclaimer: This review was conducted using the PS4 version of the game bought at the cost of the reviewer. You can read our review policy here.