One year later, Grow Up aims to expand upon the solid foundation of the original and continue to explore new game mechanics to keep the experience fresh.
The solid mechanics are combined with super addictive side objectives that had me traveling all over the planet. Outside of climbing star plants to find and recover parts to fix his spaceship, B.U.D. can collect crystals, scan new plants, and complete challenges scattered across the world. Typically I am the opposite of a completionist gamer and attempt to run through games without ever completing a side quest; however the rewards for completing these side tasks managed to keep pulling even me away from my main quest. While I came up well short of completing 100% of the game there is plenty reason for more dedicated gamers to stick around after B.U.D. has finished his primary goal.
Along with the mechanics and objectives, Ubisoft Reflections took the same, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the overall style of the game. All of the flora and fauna in the game are depicted with the same low poly art style and bright pastel color palette that I fell in love with in the first game. The background music feels very much inspired by old 3D platformers while still managing to feel entirely new. The music volume varies between subtle to nonexistent, which helps set a calming mood for the experience, as the majority of sounds come from the adorable Beeps and Boops B.U.D. makes as he moves around the world.
All of these features combine to create a soothing experience that makes it the perfect game to unwind with after a long day at the office or on a lazy sunday afternoon.
My first issue is the expansion of the play area from one star plant to an entire planet of star plants to grow and scale into the sky. By scattering the star plants across the planet, the player is now forced to cross large stretches of space, something B.U.D. does very slowly compared to climbing vertically. This was particularly unsatisfying when I would grow a star plant up to its highest point, and then be forced to glide back down to start all over again with a new plant. The pattern of completing a star plant and starting over felt very disjointed, especially compared to Grow Home.
My other major complaint is the absence of challenge present in Grow Up. After stumbling upon enough crystals to level up my jetpack twice, I was able to effectively fly around the world with the use of my glider. By using a pattern of boosting, gliding until the jetpacked recharged, and boosting again, B.U.D. can continually soar around the world at increasing altitudes. This, combined with the ability to sprout plants to shoot B.U.D. high in the air, eliminated any difficulty in the game. Every mistimed jump merely resulted in me needing to boost glide a few times to get myself back to where I fell from.
The new gameplay mechanics and added star plant variation may seem like great additions at first, but the resulting lack of difficulty and repetitive nature of growing new star plants made the many of the game’s core objectives feel like chores rather than fun new challenges.
As many video game sequels do, Grow Up suffers from trying to create a bigger and better experience, when a distinct simplistic approach is what made the original so great. Still a good game in its own right and well worth the time, it just wasn’t the step forward in the series Grow Home fans like myself were hoping for.