Review

Grow Home Review

  • First Released Feb 4, 2015
    released
  • PC

In full bloom.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Grow Home took me by surprise--not least because it was announced only a few weeks ago. Grow Home, that announcement said, started as an internal experiment, and stars a charming little robot named BUD, who has to wobble and climb his way up a giant beanstalk and across a series of floating islands. With only this scrap of information, I went into Grow Home not knowing what to think. I came out with several distinctly different, hard to synthesize impressions.

To assess Grow Home in a vacuum is to trip over the compliments that spill forth. The game's colorful island, cute creatures, and the planet's ambient sounds are immediately charming. You explore this world as BUD, a robot on a quest to retrieve seeds for a plant that can re-oxygenate his home world. To do this, BUD climbs the giant "Star Plant" stalk, occasionally taking control of its quick-growing branches and driving them head first into the glowing islands in the sky. The Star Plant sucks out the green glow, and then grows a little bigger. It's all very cute (and a little, uh, phallic).

Make sure to imagine BUD’s worried chirps for the full effect.
Make sure to imagine BUD’s worried chirps for the full effect.

Grow Home is a strikingly beautiful game, especially in motion. Everything hums with bright, colorful life. Through its use of cel-shading, low-polygon models, and subtle environmental animation, Grow Home builds a gorgeous, minimalistic style. And then, as the stalk and its branches sprout up through the sky, Grow Home sets that minimalism against overwhelming scale. Beauty is everywhere: You can let your sight linger on the butterflies, or you can look upwards, to the towering Star Plant reaching into the upper atmosphere.

While the environments shine, BUD is the real star attraction. His bobbing head, wide smile, and eager chirps make him lovable, but it's the way he moves through the world that makes controlling him such a joy. BUD's animation is procedural: instead of having the frames of his movement handcrafted by an animator, the developers programmed a system for BUD's limbs to animate according to the player's input. You direct BUD around the world with the left analog stick, using the left and right triggers to control his hands, which can grip anything they touch.

As you try to deal with the quirks of BUD's unpredictable movement, the result, at first, is a sort of comedic flailing. This was never frustrating for me, but I can see how it might be for others. Maybe you misjudge the amount of momentum BUD will have as he lands on one of the "branches" of the massive stalk, and wind up flinging him thousands of feet down to his demise. Or you might think you've got a firm grip on the cliff face, only to find that you've actually grabbed onto a loose boulder. Whoops. You can supplement your control of BUD with some environmental tools: springy plants give you a way to boost BUD's jumping power, while flowers and leaves work as parachutes and hang gliders. But these often lead to other stumbles. Pro tip: if you crash into anything while floating around with that leaf, you lose hold of it and go into a headfirst dive. Whoops, again.

No Caption Provided
For such a small game, Grow Home sure knows how to use scale.
For such a small game, Grow Home sure knows how to use scale.

This is all reminiscent of games like Octodad and Sumotori Dreams, both of which leverage uncontrollable bodies for the sake of humor. But unlike these games, there comes a point in Grow Home where you attain a sense of control that feels both elegant and exuberant. BUD's body never becomes Ezio Auditore's--it always bounces and leans in unpredictable ways. But Grow Home isn't a game about laughing at atypical bodies. Instead, it's a game that lets you become familiar with limbs that don't quite work like your own do, and it teaches you to take joy in using tools to augment your natural abilities.

I invoked the name of Ezio because the second way I experienced Grow Home was in the context of Ubisoft's recent offerings. For Ubisoft, 2014 was a year of too safe (and often too broken) output. Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed: Unity were technical disappointments, and, worse, failed to mix up the increasingly tired open-world formula common to Ubi's tent-pole releases. The Crew tried to apply that formula to a whole new genre, and in doing so missed a chance to do something really special. And while Far Cry 4 was well received, the common refrain was "It's more Far Cry 3." It's easy to imagine how Grow Home's vision of climbing-and-collecting might fit into the familiar open-world Ubisoft blueprint. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a version of this new climbing model eventually finds its way into an Assassin's Creed sequel. But Grow Home never falls into the design traps that show up in other recent Ubisoft titles. Yes, you do search for collectible crystals, but these aren't carelessly scattered by the hundreds across the environment. They're placed carefully, to encourage exploration and to challenge you to understand how BUD moves. And yes, these crystals unlock new abilities (such as a jetpack!), but these upgrades aren't doled out along a carefully scheduled arc to maximize your attachment to the game.

If you prefer the sensory overload of those aforementioned games, you might find yourself disappointed with Grow Home's lack of density. Sometimes you spend a few minutes plotting a course across the sky to a hovering island in the distance, only to find it empty but for a hidden crystal and a small collection of plants. Grow Home does not provide you a screen filled with side objectives and a constant stream of narrative reinforcement: It is happy to let you take your time, to meander, to move at your own pace for the few hours it takes to finish it. And while you might see its "short" length as a negative, it's Grow Home's brevity that lets it shine.

Night time is perfect for hunting down glowing crystals… or for gently gliding around in the moonlight.
Night time is perfect for hunting down glowing crystals… or for gently gliding around in the moonlight.

No game exists in a vacuum, and sometimes it's hard to confront the contexts that color our experiences, especially when they make us second guess ourselves. Is Grow Home a charming game that's worth your time? Yes. Do I believe this because Grow Home contrasts so sharply with Ubisoft's recent output? Also yes. Yet no matter how prone to cynicism you may be, you shouldn’t let this surprising gem go unnoticed.

Back To Top
The Good
Unique animation system gives the protagonist real character
Gorgeous, cel shaded environments
Controls make moving around the world a joy
Encourages you to explore at your own pace
The Bad
Platforming challenges can occasionally prove frustrating
No easy way to track down that one, last collectible
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Austin Walker finds himself playing lots of open world games with vertical exploration, like Saints Row 4 and the Assassin’s Creed series. When he isn’t scaling rooftops, he’s digging into intimate games like Bientot l’ete and Thirty Flights of Loving.
88 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
  • 88 results
  • 1
  • 2
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for Fire_Wa11
Fire_Wa11

600

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

Heh. Heh. He said "phallic."

Avatar image for sadface1234
sadface1234

69

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I feel like the reviewer gave this game high scores because it came from Ubisoft, but feels indie. So yay for triple A game dev doing innovative things..... no they SHOULD be doing these things all the time naturally. I would not be giving "free" points to them just because they do it.


I played the game for about 3 hours yesterday first 30 mins I liked it. then it got oh so repetitive and lost all its charm, I will not be playing this game again. Cool concept of controlling BUD etc. but you need more than that to make a game.

Avatar image for thorn3000
thorn3000

326

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 260

User Lists: 0

@sadface1234: ubisoft creative division has been doing that for some time already, child of light anyone

Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

2224

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Ubisoft makes another critically praised indie game, further cultivating their dualistic nature of both producing annual 60 dollar dull AAA games and smaller quite unique games. With all the studios Ubisoft has, it's good to know that they're not all shaped after the same blueprint, that different studios can create different things.

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz
GamerOuTLaWzz

1314

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

@Hurvl: So mcuh this.

Avatar image for l3u12tgmm312x
l3U12TGMM312x

102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

looks dumb!

Avatar image for jeremyc99999
jeremyc99999

80

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

@l3u12tgmm312x: Get away from the mirror and try something new.

Avatar image for vadagar1
vadagar1

546

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 37

User Lists: 0

@jeremyc99999@l3u12tgmm312x: LOL

Avatar image for willamwallace
WillamWallace

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

So, it's better than the order...got it

Avatar image for Itzsfo0
Itzsfo0

802

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@willamwallace: if you want headaches n bluescreens get a pc...otherwise if you need to check mail surf web nowadays so many other platforms (smart tvs tablets game consoles handhelds n touchscreen smartphones) that you can get without ever owning a regular pc w oversized monitor n tower that makes enough noise that youd think your at a construction site...i prefer consoles but then again ive done more then my fair share of pc gaming i.e every major blizz title all 3 franchises d123 w123 n wow n s12 square enix ff11 online eq etc just to name a few but still prefer consoles have for over 20 yrs ...but thats just my preference no right or wrong just taste/opinion.

Avatar image for vadagar1
vadagar1

546

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 37

User Lists: 0

@willamwallace: the order is GARBAGE

Avatar image for kozzy1234
kozzy1234

35966

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 86

User Lists: 0

@willamwallace: Having played both, yup way better.

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

31721

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

R4gn4r0k  Online

@willamwallace: If you want a constant stream of good exclusives = buy a PC.

If you want to wait months and get hyped up for games that disappoint = buy a PS4

Avatar image for tom2750
tom2750

452

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@R4gn4r0k@willamwallace: wrong console exclusives are generally higher rated and more award winning then PC exclusives

Avatar image for pelvist
pelvist

7476

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 21

User Lists: 0

@tom2750: Thats false tom. And awards nowadays are just hype. Look at all the awards Titanfall got (before it had even released).

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

31721

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

R4gn4r0k  Online

@tom2750@R4gn4r0k@willamwallace: Care to provide any evidence?

Pick a gen, pick a console and show me it has more A/AA/AAA rated games than PC.

Avatar image for Itzsfo0
Itzsfo0

802

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@R4gn4r0k@tom2750@R4gn4r0k: ok n64 theres one that was what 5th gen...go back further 3rd gen....lmao oh yeah 1985 a time when atari nintendo n arcades dominated n pc wasnt even gui...lol then go forward ps2 era 6th gen....far more exclusives that period n heres an ign article exactly about that sales n overall reviews for that time period.....fact not a single ninten game including all the classic franchises have ever been on pc...oh unless you consider roms...lol so that right there..makes argument void..its opinion man taste...i can buy a console not give a shit bout sales or graphical comparisons n play a single ps console for a decade n get EASILY as much pleasure then a guy w some $1000 asus r.o.g laptop w blah blah specs we know weve all heard the mindless rants of pc nazis rawr superior cpu n gpu dedicated vid cards rawr lol who cares...i get more from a SNES n wii u n ps1234 w specific mascots n classics n franchises that WE ALL know will never be on the pc...not raggin on the pc cause im NOT a fanboy n i enjoy all gaming platforms n stats n sales mean shit to me but since u opened the gates asking for proof to back the above users statement up there you but again who cares i just know if i want a specific title like xenoblade c a mario title mario kart or motion based wii title or great couch co op from the n64 days or a romp w twisted metal on ps2 i cannot find ANY of those pleasures listed above on a pc....infact i find that half of the pc exclusives like this little game i usually just [x] n move on n it barely registers...but again its opinion...but w pc fanatics its not content or pleasure or nostalgia its rawr beef up stats new card big mean powerful look @ the fps it runs in full ____________ as if i care pc master race guys are equivalent to the musclehead gearbox douches w wrenches in their hands bragging bout their mph n engine n rimsize etc etc...meanwhile im the equivalent of typical guy in the norm who wants a regular stripped down economical car that will get me from point a to point b just as easily as the muscleheads beefed up hotrod will...only diff is i dont care about the hotrod simply cause its for flash image not substance again opinion argue it n throw insults my way as if ill ever even come back to this specific post or thread...try to get it thru ur thick skull pc console handheld tablet its all gaming so who cares ...n yes im using wii u gamepad hence abbreviations n more then likely typos

Avatar image for grindcoreninja
GrindcoreNinja

45

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@R4gn4r0k@willamwallace: or if you want to mod skyrim into a beast that laughs at "next gen" titles lmao

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 552

User Lists: 4

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>

Good grief. I already wrote to BrunoBRS that I wasn't talking about which game is AAA and sh*t, but GlitchSpot's sh*tty LiveFyre integration f***ed up that.

So just for you, and anyone else who brings up that remark again: I wasn't talking about which game is AAA and sh*t. Please do not put words which I did not say into my mouth.

I was talking about Ubisoft's game projects which gave considerable creative control to their design team. The first Assassin's Creed was like that, so are these smaller games.

If these games somehow turned out profitable, don't expect Ubisoft to get the message that they should be making more of such games, e.g. let their designers have more ownership over the development of the product. It will just do unto these what it did to Assassin's Creed - have the suits step in and mine them for all they are worth.

Avatar image for coop36
coop36

2151

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 41

User Lists: 0

@Gelugon_baat:
Dont really know what youre still whining about but whatever man. Like you said, your loss.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 552

User Lists: 4

@coop36:

Well, if you have seen Ubisoft run a franchise which started out fresh into the ground, then you will know what I know what I am whining about.

Better to lose out than being disappointed.

Avatar image for illmatic87
illmatic87

17934

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 564

User Lists: 0

The Default running animation looks like me on a Sunday morning :>

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 552

User Lists: 4

I know that I have said it before for Child of Eden, the Rayman reboots and Valiant Hearts, but it's too bad for me that this is a Ubisoft game.

Avatar image for BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

74156

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

@Gelugon_baat: why? if you only support their games that you like, that would be encouraging change.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 552

User Lists: 4

@BrunoBRS:

No. That would just show that these games are money-making, and then the suits step in. Things go downhill from there.

You might want to be reminded of what happened to Assassin's Creed, the first game of which started out as a project under the control of its designers.

Avatar image for coop36
coop36

2151

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 41

User Lists: 0

@Gelugon_baat@BrunoBRS: The difference is Assassins Creed was planned from the beginning to be a huge AAA blockbuster series. These smaller games obviously are not.

Avatar image for BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

74156

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

@Gelugon_baat@BrunoBRS: so you'd rather not support a one-off indie game (AC was always meant to be an AAA franchise, it was the freaking PoP team behind it) over fear that ubisoft might want to serialize the crap out of it, rather than just invest more in indie games?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24102

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 552

User Lists: 4

@BrunoBRS:

I am not going to argue over which is AAA or not. I do know that control over the project for the first Assassin's Creed was within the control of its designers, and I will emphasize that my previous statement was over this. Please don't put words which I did not say into my mouth.

Also, do ask yourself this: do you really think that Ubisoft would invest more in making new IPs if one of them turns out to be profitable than they thought it would be? Do you really think that they could "get" this message?

  • 88 results
  • 1
  • 2

Grow Home More Info

Follow
  • First Released Feb 4, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Grow Home is a quirky, experiential climbing game in development at Reflections.
    7.3
    Average Rating50 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Grow Home
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Reflections
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    No Descriptors