Early last year saw the surprise release of a tech demo-like game known as Grow Home. Internally at Ubisoft, the game was meant to show off procedural generation and how it affects the game world. After a while, the game reached higher-ups, and they figured they could release it for consumers to explore the budding world of B.U.D. The result was an interesting little gem of a game, starring a tiny robot and his botanical quest to save his home world. It was simple, it was fun, and it was cheap at a mere $8 on the store. In the after-months of Assassin’s Creed Unity’s controversial release, Grow Home was able to thrive in the wake of multiple AAA’s. Come this month, the studio Ubisoft Reflections celebrates the release of the game’s sequel, Grow Up, and besides a very confusing title to use in conversation, this game is simply a bigger, better, and BUDdier game over its predecessor.
The story revolves around our returning hero, B.U.D., or Botanical Utility Droid, on his way back from the events of the previous game. Whilst BUD and MOM, the ship that BUD uses, are heading back home, MOM flies into an asteroid belt and is smashed into bits. BUD lands on a miniature planet without any upgrades, but is assisted by another robot named POD. The two now have to locate the missing pieces of MOM and bring her back together to finally head home.
This is a slightly more complicated story than last time, which was simply climb to the top of a really big plant. The game also sports multiple dialogue sequences, something that the last game lacked entirely. But you don’t have to worry about existential commentary from this game, most of the dialogue sequences consist of telling you how this bigger game works and cracking some jokes along the way. While players take control of BUD, POD’s purpose in the game is to be your eyes in the skies and act as a map, to which you can set waypoints to desired destinations. A map function is also important to note, because this game is more than double the size of the last game. While Grow Home had a lot of verticality, the game felt inherently empty because of how limited space you were allowed to travel. In Grow Up, you get your own little planet, with multiple biomes, plants, and activities for you to accomplish. It feels massively more fun to explore a tiny world filled with caverns and critters to tort-*ahem* I mean study.
But this added space to roam would be for naught if BUD still moved at the same pace as last time. Thankfully, BUD can recover certain nodes that allow him to upgrade his move-set. Instead of constantly swapping between the flower and the gliding leaf from last time, BUD can use a whole array of abilities in mid-air, along with added abilities such as planting seeds of different plants you come across and curling into a ball to both nullify fall damage and to rev up to get going on ground level. These abilities help to make the world big, but not impossible to traverse in a timely fashion. You can also unlock extra costumes for BUD to get different boosting effects by completing challenges. These challenges are essentially the same, just fly or jump through multiple circles in a path as fast as you can. As for the Star Plants, they actually only come into play when reaching different pieces of MOM. Since MOM is scattered across different sections of the planet, your mission is no longer just to get to the tippy top. There are even multiple Star Plants at the different biomes to grow to the floating isles, and thankfully all these Star Plants only have one stage of growth. But since BUD is far more versatile than last time, the game is less of a grueling climb to the top and more of a game where you have fun just exploring every inch. The challenges to complete, plants to analyze, and the power crystals, which upgrade the strength of your abilities, help invoke your inner sense of adventure to complete and collect every single one of the things.
Grow Home had a lot of artistic charm when it came out, and I’m happy to report that Grow Up retains that goofy and vibrant scheme. This game is mostly a bigger and better version of the original, so it doesn’t go for much graphical enhancement as much as just adding more stuff to it. However, I do have to say that, while the game is mostly stable, there were frequent times where the game would just freeze for one or two seconds and then resume. The framerate is also quite inconsistent, and while I’ve heard it runs better on PC, Grow Up has some stability issues on consoles, and the version of which I played was on Xbox One. But to say the least, Grow Up keeps much of the charm of the original, creating new goofy organisms and crazy-looking plants to expand its cute little universe.
Grow Up is a vast improvement over the original. While Grow Home definitely had the feel of a tech demo, Grow Up takes advantage of its bigger purpose and fleshes out the game to a well-rounded experience, outside of some technical problems. There is frankly more than double the content of the original, and BUD’s new abilities keeps it from getting overwhelming, and after getting all powered up, it’s amazing fun to just zip around the whole planet. The game is also following up its predecessor’s cheap price tag with this game being only $10 on all platforms. Add in the multitudinous things to collect and complete, and you have yourself a nifty little experience that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.