Grow Up Review

  • First Released Aug 16, 2016
  • PS4
Jason D'Aprile on Google+

Clumsy, but cute.

Grow Up, Ubisoft’s sequel to last year’s quirky Grow Home, is likely to be a divisive game. It's unintuitive and clunky, but this adds some charm to B.U.D., the plant-climbing protagonist with a funky gait. Grow Up's levels are heavily bent on vertical travel, and though B.U.D.'s controls make climbing arguably more challenging than it should be, you're treated to impressive views once you get the hang of his peculiar abilities and reach new heights. There's enough joy and humor to convince you to bear Grow Up's issues for a little while, but it's a difficult game to recommend on that basis alone.

For those who haven’t experienced the weirdness of this series, you play as B.U.D., a botany-focused robot who likes to climb, plant seeds, and generally jump around a lot. Grow Up has a barebones plot, but it’s a good enough fit for the nonsensical yet charming characters. As the story begins, B.U.D.’s ship has crashed and split apart, so our goofy fellow must go around and collect the necessary ship parts to escape the planet. Once you get into the rhythm of Grow Up's challenges, it’s not a very long game--maybe four to six hours at best.

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Now Playing: Grow Up - Flight Gameplay

Flying makes it much easier to get around as the game progresses
Flying makes it much easier to get around as the game progresses

Learning to climb to a floating island in the sky via obscure, out-of-the-way paths can feel more like a chore than an enjoyable challenge. And B.U.D. is a ragdoll nightmare of a robot, walking around like a sloppy marionette; jumping as if he’s in low gravity. There’s an incredibly steep learning curve to overcome if you want to be a fast and efficient adventurer. The frequently wonky camera doesn’t help matters either, requiring near-constant tweaking to stay focused on whatever floating platform you’re attempting to reach.

Basic elements like climbing are unfortunately overcomplicated. You have to use the shoulder buttons--mapped to each of B.U.D.’s limbs--in concert to grab objects and climb the sides of vertical terrain, one hand after the other. There’s an awkward rhythm in making the little robot climb one limb at a time, and one misstep can lead to a punishing fall. Merely climbing onto low-rises feels clumsy due to B.U.D.’s erratic movements, and there’s frequently a complete lack of direction in how to navigate some of the world's more complicated paths.

At times, your journey feels like a surreal series of futile exercises. You’ll analyze and collect seeds from new plants, but there’s seldom any explanation for why specific seeds matter. Some are useful--like plants that springboard you across the surface or shoot you high into the air--but there are plenty of plants--prickly cactuses, for example--that don’t directly affect mobility and are rarely used. Oddly, planting your own seeds becomes an afterthought since the game tends to have the required plants already growing where you’ll need them.

If you like surreal landscapes, Grow Up may be a game for you.
If you like surreal landscapes, Grow Up may be a game for you.

To help offset some of these difficulties, Grow Up gives you a jetpack early on, as well as a sky brake that lets B.U.D. float slowly through the sky instead of plummeting downward. These vital tools help a lot when it comes to correcting potentially frustrating miscalculations, but they can't make up for the moment-to-moment difficulties.

On the positive side, the beautifully primitive geometric landscape is full of fascinating details. Grow Up isn’t exactly “retro”--it’s more that the game intentionally uses low-polygon visuals to evoke a light-hearted mood. The strange creatures on this alien world all bring their own brand of quirky behaviors, which compliment the comedic appeal of B.U.D.'s off-kilter movements.

Grow Up plays with gameplay elements that are unapologetically unwieldy. When even basic things like jumping and climbing feel clumsy, it’s difficult to get excited about playing with B.U.D., even if he elicits a laugh or two. There’s enough charm and visually rewarding exploration to make Grow Up worth a look if you can get past the control issues, but that's ultimately easier said than done.

Jason D'Aprile on Google+
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The Good

  • Charming presentation
  • Exploration yields fantastic views

The Bad

  • Touchy physics
  • Steep learning curve

About the Author

Jason D’Aprile spent eight hours getting stuck in high places with B.U.D. using a complimentary copy of the game provided by Ubisoft.