Friday, August 19, 2016

Grow Up Review (XONE)

I don’t normally get jealous of games on other platforms, but Ubisoft’s Grow Home being a PS4 console exclusive made me green with envy.  It was just so darn bright and colorful and cute and innocent and fun looking.  Thankfully, the follow-up, called Grow Up, is a multiplatform release and I couldn’t be happier finally getting to play the series on Xbox One.  It is everything I had hoped it would be and more with its fresh take on 3D platforming and exploration.  Our full review has everything you need to know about why Grow Home is awesome.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Ubisoft            
  • Developer: Reflections
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: 3D Platformer
  • Pros: Awesome graphics and sound; satisfying platforming; addictive upgrade loop
  • Cons: Sloppy, loose feeling movement
  • MSRP: $10

Grow Up is a game about an adorable little robot that crash lands onto a planet and has to collect the pieces of its ship scattered all over the world.  The robot is named BUD, the ship is named MOM, and a helpful robot satellite is named POD, and they’re all the cutest most wonderful things ever. 

Grow Up’s gameplay is a fresh take on 3D platforming where you are free to explore an entire planet in order to find upgrades for BUD as well as pieces of MOM.  You start out with the most basic of abilities – you can run and jump and climb on stuff – but quickly find upgrades that give you a jet pack, glider, ball form (think Samus’ morph ball), and more that let you explore faster and more efficiently.  You also find plants that each have unique features that you can use at will by planting their seeds.  These plants will boost you into the air, grow super tall, form bubbles that let you float high into the air, and more.  The constant flow of new plants and upgrades to use gives the game a really fun upgrade loop where you always have new and fun things to play with.

The whole idea behind the plants and the upgrades you collect is to help you climb around and explore easier.  The interesting thing about Grow Up is that, outside of the tutorial, none of the upgrades or plants are actually required to collect all the parts of MOM and “beat” the game, they just make it way easier and more fun.  The game is totally open world and you’re free to do pretty much whatever you want and collect things in any order you want.  Don’t like the plants?  Don’t use them!  Think the ball ability is pointless?  Don’t use it!  Want to climb as high as you can and then use the glider to fly all the way around the planet?  Do it!  You can tackle the game any way you want, and I love that.

Grow Up is a typical Ubisoft game that is full of collectibles, but without the pretense.  It doesn’t hide the fact it is a collect-a-thon and, instead, embraces it wholeheartedly.  In addition to the 9 parts of MOM you have to find, there are a handful of upgrades, a couple dozen plant species, and a couple hundred power crystals that let you use your upgraded abilities for longer.  Taking a leisurely path through the game to collect all the ship parts, but not necessarily going out of your way to find the other collectibles, will take only 4-5 hours.  Scouring the entire planet to find every last power crystal and other collectibles will take a fair bit longer.  Even if you stop at 5-hours, though, you’re definitely getting your $10 worth, so the length doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother other reviewers.

The one negative I will say about Grow Up is that the movement is really loose and sloppy feeling.  BUD is a sort of gangly barely together robot, so the movement makes sense from a design perspective, but having him not jump when and where you want and slide all over when you’re just walking around takes quite a bit of getting used to.  That mostly applies to when you’re on the ground, though.  When you’re climbing on stuff or flying through the air, the controls are surprisingly good.  The game strongly encourages you to get vertical as often as possible – most of the collectibles are on floating islands high in the air anyway – so the sloppy movement is easy to forgive. 

The presentation in Grow Up is absolutely fantastic and is a huge part of its appeal.  The game is made up entirely of simple polygons with no textures on them, but everything is brightly colored and distinct and easy to recognize which gives the game a unique visual style that is very appealing.  The planet has a day / night cycle and the lighting effects are really great.  BUD’s design is awesome and really loveable.  He actually looks really cute, unlike a similar red-body-with-white-eyes character in Yarny from Unravel that just looks creepy. 

The sound is also extremely well done in Grow Up.  The little robotic computer noises BUD makes are adorable and the music perfectly fits the mood.  When you put the great visuals and sound together with the core concept of a little helpless thing going on a grand adventure to rebuild MOM, Grow Up is basically a playable Pixar movie.

All in all, Grow Up is awesome.  The presentation is fantastic, the gameplay is solid, the upgrades are imaginative and satisfying to use, and the whole concept is just really cute and fun.  It is just the right length, too, and at $10 it is the perfect price to boot.  If you like 3D platformers or just want a laid back and fun game to waste some time with, Grow Up is highly, highly recommended.