Physics-based games and simulators that rely on realistic physics engines have become very popular in recent years. Some would argue that the popularity of these games is due to the randomness and intentionally comedic gameplay. Most other physics games toss story out the window in favor of overly exaggerated physics and difficult controls. Grow Home however, completely foregoes the norm of using its gameplay to comedic effect and tones down the floaty and ragdoll feel of its physics in order to deliver on a simple yet charming story in an equally engaging world.

The premise of Grow Home is simple: you assume control of a Botanical Utility Droid (B.U.D. for short) and it’s your job to harvest the seeds of the Star Plant. The Star Plant is a large stalk that must be grown to 2,000 meters in order to be harvested. As B.U.D., you have to climb up the plant and guide its branches into floating rocks and islands that are scattered around the map. Very little besides basic controls are explained to you, and there are no other characters in the game except for your ship’s computer M.O.M., who serves as a means of explaining new items and mechanics. There are also a few animals peppered throughout the game’s environments, but they do little more than wander around aimlessly. The majority of the items in Grow Home’s environments can be manipulated, but most of them besides the big white flowers, which can be used as a parachute in order to make travel easier, have no actual in-game effect.

Ubisoft

Right off the bat, the game encourages you to use a controller, and while it is a much smoother experience, avid PC gamers will have no problem adjusting to the keyboard and mouse controls. Regardless of which control scheme you choose there isn’t much to get used to, since the only things you can do are grab/climb objects, use items, and jump. Climbing is B.U.D.’s main means of getting around, and each one of his hands is controlled independently. In conjunction with the emphasis on physics, this makes for some interesting exploration that can be a bit frustrating at times. Movement does feel loose, and often you’ll spend more time positioning your character in order to grab something or land a jump correctly. It may seem that with only four buttons the controls are easy to master, but there is a bit of a steep learning curve for people who don’t play physics games, and especially those who aren’t used to keyboard and mouse controls.

Immediately the world presents itself as a bright and colorful, vertically-oriented, mystical landscape. The solid colors make the world feel inviting and Grow Home encourages exploration with collectible crystals that unlock upgrades along your journey. These crystals unlock different power-ups, ranging from a basic jump ability to a jetpack or a leaf you can use to glide around. Gathering these can be a bit tricky since they have be pulled from whatever rock they’re stuck in, and if you’re not careful you’ll lose your grip and fall off of whatever you’re clinging to. It’s also very satisfying to look down at all of the winding branches you’ve made in order to progress. The ambience the game creates is further enhanced by the soundtrack. The music is great and fits perfectly with the visuals and focus on exploration. These simplistic and bright visuals make the somewhat challenging and precise gameplay feel more like a vacation than the arduous task of growing a giant plant thousands of meters into the air.

Ubisoft

Grow Home does something new with the genre with it’s toned down physics, cheery and unique art style, and simplistic story. All in all, the game doesn’t last more than a few hours, even if you go out of your way to collect all of the crystals, so the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even though the gameplay and setting are great, some players may not want to adjust to the admittedly steep learning curve if they haven’t played similar games. Despite not doing anything big or particularly new, Grow Home is an enjoyable, compact experience that knows what it is and offers it in a neat little package.

This review is based on a purchased download of Grow Home for the PC.

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating