Rating : 9/10
When Grow Home released last year, it quickly became one of my favourite games: it was simple but refined and knew exactly what it wanted to be. When the sequel – Grow Up – was announced, I was equal parts excited and sceptical: The original was very close to a perfect game in my eyes and I didn’t want a quick cash-grab marring its name. Luckily, Ubisoft Reflections have delivered a spectacular sequel.
Grow Up is everything a sequel should be: it takes what made the original great, refines it slightly and then builds on it. The climbing is deeply intuitive and feels exactly the same as I remember it being. Gone are the limited leafy glider or petal air brake, replaced with a permanent upgrade unlocked as you progress through the game. Instead of one Star Plant – a giant space beanstalk – there are four, and it’s accompanied by 24 floraforms which are there to help you reach new heights and distances. They’re very important too, since Grow Up takes place on an entire planet and its moon.
The game begins with a catastrophe: MOM – your spaceship – crashes into an asteroid field, scattering parts of her around the planet. Protagonist drunk robot BUD is joined by POD, a slightly homesick satellite which you can see through the eyes of to set waypoints and get the lay of the land. POD also tells you about future upgrades and the vague locations of the parts of MOM, though these suggestions appear throughout the game, even after you’ve gotten the part or upgrades.
The planet is much larger than the original game’s setting, but it never feels too big: Having 100% completed it, finding all the collectibles and running all the challenges is a task, but nowhere near impossible. It helps that Grow Up is a nice place to be, with colourful and interesting landscapes that make you want to explore everything, scrounging every nook-and-cranny for their secrets.
As previously mentioned, to help you explore everything Grow Up has to show you are floraforms: these alien plants resemble those you’d find on Earth, except they are much larger and have some unusual properties. Of the 24, my personal favourites are the gong-shaped one which will hit you for miles, the mushroom that has the bounce of a trampoline and the family of plants that were effectively floral cannons.
Once you begin to reach certain heights, climbing having long become second nature, Grow Up starts encouraging you to fly. With the jetpack eventually getting strong enough to allow you to actually fly and a permanent glider being accessible, I found myself spending a long time in the air admiring the contour of the planet. The flying is a little awkward at times: You don’t ever stop being a physics-based animated robot so you can be at the mercy of gravity at times, though after a couple hours of practice it too became second nature.
The Star Plants remain mostly the same, colossal flora which absorb energy from flying rocks to grow into space. This time out, controlling the shoots which connect to those rocks felt much easier, with the vines less inclined to branch off in the other direction. They also reach further if you’re close to a power source, I believe: In the original, it wasn’t uncommon to have a branch fall inches short of their target, but I didn’t have this happen at all in Grow Up.
The only thing I have to say against Grow Up is it is very reliant on the player having played Grow Home. It doesn’t teach you the climbing mechanics, it doesn’t tell you what to do to make the teleporters work, and it doesn’t really tell you what to do with Star Plants. Having played Grow Home, I didn’t notice this until a friend played Grow Up without playing the original and was confused by the game’s’ core mechanics. This isn’t a big complaint against Grow Up because they did work out everything pretty quickly and Grow Home is an excellent game that you should definitely still play if you haven’t.
So, despite it’s poor tutorial for players new to the series, Grow Up has made me very happy. I have greatly enjoyed the 12 hours I spent completing it, and couldn’t recommend it enough. With its timeless graphical style, excellent score backed up by great mechanics, this is a must-have for anyone who enjoyed the Grow Home. If you never played the original, I’d recommend picking up Grow Home first: it’s a much shorter – and cheaper – game and if you enjoy it, then pick this up.
Grow Up is an excellent sequel that builds on a strong foundation to make a spectacular game. If you liked Grow Home, you’ll want to play this too.
Reviews the games nobody else will, so you don’t have to. Give her a bow and arrow and you have an ally for life. Will give 10s for food.