It’s rare that one can find a game so equally calming and challenging at the same time. Ubisoft’s Grow Up can be described as one of those games.
BUD is the protagonist of this open-world platformer, a clumsy, child-like robot whose goal is to recover the scattered pieces of MOM, his ship who has crashed on a mysterious planet. With his satellite companion, POD, BUD dons a backpack that can instantly clone the strange “Floraforms” that grow on this planet, using them to climb his way to the various floating natural structures upon which MOM’s pieces are scattered.
There are no enemies in Grow Up, and the only way to die is by falling in the water. Not even fall damage can keep BUD down. The object of the game is exploration and creative ascension into the atmosphere to retrieve MOM. I may have knocked over a harmless hermit crab in fear of it being an enemy. It turns out all the little critters in the game are harmless little buddies, probably consisting of one part happiness and two parts marshmallow– they were all very cute.
Accompanied by a calming soundtrack and softly-colored graphics, BUD’s journey around the strange planet is a relatively stress-free one. I say relatively because the controls for BUD are as clumsy as the character himself. It’s very easy to lose one’s grip on a surface while climbing, and plummet hundreds of meters away from your upward destination. It can be frustrating. Thankfully, the various Floraforms make for excellent ladders, trampolines, and robot launchers in order to make it back up to the sky and back on track. I only found the mechanics of the game frustrating in the beginning when I was still getting used to the clumsiness of the controllers and the unfamiliarity with the tone of the game.
The only portion of the game that didn’t quite grab me was the challenges. Don’t get me wrong, they were challenging. Scattered throughout the planet are various beacons you can activate which challenges you to jump through white squares that line up across the precarious terrain, some even hundreds of meters up in the air. The reward for completing these challenges are different “suits” for BUD to wear. While this feature didn’t quite appeal to me, it may be something other players would enjoy as extra content. Additionally, after reassembling MOM, you can always go back and complete the challenges without starting the game over, if you wish to do so.
I had the opportunity to play Grow Up without having ever played it’s predecessor Grow Home, so if there are any losses or gains from the primary game to its sequel, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that Grow Up was a unique experience with beautiful colors and scenery, with music to match. This isn’t a heart-poundingly intense survival game. It’s all about exploration and creativity. It’s cute parkour with robots and bouncy fungi, and it’s definitely worth a play.