Disclosure ‐ A big thanks goes out to Ubisoft for supplying us with a review copy of this game
Grow Up and Grow Home
Always keep your eyes on the road. Do not use a mobile device while driving. Follow the speed limit. Do not tailgate. Do not play noughts and crosses while navigating asteroid fields. It is behaviours like these that can cost far more than panel beating fees. It is because of the irresponsible driving by your mothership “MOM” that you land on an small gravitationally weird planet, and she finds herself scattered across the four corners of the same globe. This must mean that it is time to Grow Up! and put the pieces back together.
It is this selfish and irresponsible act that sets up the story for Grow Up. You play as BUD, the little droid who was thrust once again into a position of self survival. You have to travel the world, going from ground level to unknown heights in order to recover all your “MOM’s” body parts with the goal of reassembling them back into a single whole. Let’s just hope that enough of her remains intact to allow us to complete the journey.
At its very base, Grow Up is a simple platforming game. There are very few puzzles and instead it mostly looks towards exploration and movement; forwards, onwards and upwards. Like all little robots he can walk, jump and fall forward, all with varying degrees of motor control. You have been given some of the most annoying movement physics ever. It very much reminds me of Octodad. BUD controls like he has no strength in any limb nor any mass, even the slightest incline will see you gliding backwards.
The one tool he has, which actually supports his ability to explore, is an ongoing QTE. The left mouse button and right mouse buttons each cause the associated hands to grip. By alternating your clicks you are able to scale your way up virtually anything you can touch. This is as tedious as it sounds. Considering BUD’s inability to walk straight this becomes the standard mode of movement for everything from the humble inline to upside-down rocks.
As you navigate your way across this world you will discover a wide array of novelty plants, ones which have some of the most amazing properties; there are springboard mushrooms which let you jump quite high, there are catapult like trees which fling you on your way, and then there are stalks which do very little of interest (they are kinda tall though.) As you wander the world you are able to collect these plants, duplicate them and then spawn new version at your command. Even with the funky physics they are often the fastest way to go up.
These small plants can very much be considered ‘small fry’. There are 4 plants you will encounter which dwarf all that surround them. These ‘Star plants’ put even the tallest of buildings to shame, their growth rate is equally astonishing. Naturally, when you first encounter these monsters they are only but a fraction of their true height. The way you force them to grow is to ride their phallic like protrusions into high energy rock nodes. Four to six of these tentacles will be all you need to thrust yourself into the surrounding rocks to push these shrubberies to their full height. Conveniently, of course, there is an appropriate number of high energy nodes nearby to exactly match the ideal energy for the plant. In essence, climbing these plants is the central goal of the game. Get to the top of these and you will get very close to acquiring all the unlocks and all the body parts of your mother.
Scattered around the world, in addition to your parts of your MOM, are pods and upgrades which give you support over your journey. The pods act as either waypoints, new abilities or challenges. The waypoints act as save locations and teleporting nodes. Super useful for when you want to get to the top of the map and glide to a difficult to access location. The new ability pods give you a couple of extra tools at your disposal. The greatest of which is the parachute and the glider. There was one which let you roll into a ball and do a Sonic, but I could never work out why I would want to use it; flying is just better.
Finally, there are challenge nodes. These are the starting points for races. You have to get from one point to another, through a number of checkpoints, within a set time limit. Given that I found the controls inconvenient at best, I struggled to see any benefit or reason for completing these. They did show ways to climb to new points on the map, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they are just added as padding. This is something which I feel was further enforced at the end of the game once mother was reconstructed…
It was all “Good job, you put me back together”, there was no “I am sorry for failing to notice the asteroid field and almost destroying you on a potentially hostile world”. The future did not involve continuing on the journey that was so rudely interrupted by careless driving, instead you are chastised for failing to complete enough of the side quests. You have not completed enough of the movement challenges. You have not collected enough of the crystals. You have not documented enough of the plants or unlocked all the waypoints.
I was thrust onto this world because of MOM’s poor driving, but now that we are here I am expected to appreciate you sending me down again and again on meaningless missions. For me, once I rebuilt MOM, I considered the story over. The rest of the stuff is just padding that does not add anything to the story nor character of the game. I am sure that for some people, especially the younger audience, these kinds of challenges will be quite good. I could not see myself completing many, let alone going back to complete an additional 100. I think in this case the devs may have gone a little overboard in the number of collectables, challenges and waypoints to find.
Overall, Grow Up is an interesting game. It is simple platforming around low gravity physics. It is not something which I would come back to, but I don’t think that this game is targeted at my demographic. I think it is a perfect game for a younger audience who only has a little money and a lot of time. It aims to tell a very simple story and it does it quite well. Grow Up does not have the same kind of global appeal of other platforming games like Mario, but I think it is fairly committed to the path it wants to walk.
If you are a more experienced gamer, I do not think that this game will offer you all that much, but for a parent I think this will be an excellent place to introduce children into some of the more common elements shared across more mature games. It is bright, it is relatively forgiving and offers plenty of opportunities to explore. So come on, play this and Grow Up!