Go! Go! GOTY! 2016: Day Four: Grow Up

Day Four

No Caption Provided
  • Game: Ubisoft Reflections's Grow Up.
  • Release Month: August.
  • Quick Look: Here. (Brad/Jeff)
  • Started: 04/12.

My original intent was to play Dangerous Golf next: I noticed it in my Steam library and deduced through the ol' Google Search that it was released earlier this year. Unsurprisingly, however, it turns out an Unreal Engine 4 game released months ago doesn't run particularly well on a PC of this vintage, and so for the time being I've shelved it away in a special folder in my Steam library dubbed "Beyond This PC". It's a big folder.

Instead, I did what I was trying to avoid immediately after completing Headlander: play yet another exploration-based platformer with a floating robot. Grow Up is the sequel to last year's Grow Home, and as you might expect from an annual iteration in a Ubisoft franchise not a whole lot is different with this new game. B.U.D. the Robot still has a set of very fussy controls that take some getting used to, but ends up becoming a fairly versatile platforming hero with his various upgrades and pincer-like climbing claws. You're still growing "Starplants", directing its offshoots towards floating islands packed with yellow energy which the plant then absorbs to make itself grow. You're still unlocking new tools and new fast-travel teleporters by reaching new areas. And, of course, the crystals are back. 150 of them, humming away when you get close enough to help guide you towards their radiant beauty.

Yaaay crystals! I managed to capture BUD in a Don Bradman
Yaaay crystals! I managed to capture BUD in a Don Bradman "you guys seeing this shit?" pose.

You've also got a few new additions that unfortunately don't really add much to the game. The first of these, and the most derided, are the challenges scattered across the world. Each one appears to be a checkpoint race using BUD's jetpack or gliding abilities, the ultimate goal of which is to unlock additional suits for BUD. These aren't just cosmetic: each suit confers a different kind of power-up, such as softening landings or increasing BUD's normal jump height. Yet, the best costumes are locked away in Ubisoft's always welcome (/sarcasm) "Ubisoft Club" online funtime community bullshit. I generally don't find the Uplay business all that irksome in a console context - it's less great on PC where it requires an app to be running in the background - but it does break the immersion somewhat to be given various amounts of "Ubipoints" and directed to go online to spend them. That's a minor quibble though, and it's worth holding your nose and hopping over there for a few of the better costumes. Another new addition includes a plant scanner which allows BUD to toss out replicated seeds and create his own wherever they're needed, from springy mushrooms to tall trees to climb. These plants cease being useful almost immediately, as the jetpack isn't far away and it doesn't take long to collect enough crystals to give it essentially endless fuel, but it's nice to have another set of collectibles to look out for.

The other change, though not much of one, is the new story structure. In the original Grow Home, BUD was growing a singular Starplant as high as it could go to reach his ship in low orbit. Here, the goal is to collect the broken pieces of ship together on the moon and rebuild it. There are now multiple Starplants, and the planet is considerably larger with different climates: desert, arctic, grasslands, etc. With this in mind, a lot of BUD's new upgrades have a horizontal aspect to them, rather than ones that assist the sheer vertical climb that was the previous game. New upgrades include a ball which can be revved up, Sonic the Hedgehog style, and sent flying over terrain in a slightly disconcerting uncontrollable speed. The glider, meanwhile, expands the usefulness of BUD's air brakes to provide a zero-fuel alternative to keeping aloft. By using the jetpack and then using the glider while the jetpack automatically refuels, you can effectively keep airborne forever, and rise to ever greater heights... if there was anything high up worth finding. So far I've reached the top of a couple of Starplants and couldn't see anything higher on the horizon, but the game does track maximum height via a gauge that slowly fills up as you set new height records, and I'm a long way from maxing it out. I'm guessing there's more to the game than is currently apparent. If not, it's an odd choice to call this one Grow Up when there's less going upwards involved.

Yep, this still happens. Couldn't squeeze another five feet out of you, huh branch?
Yep, this still happens. Couldn't squeeze another five feet out of you, huh branch?

All in all, Grow Up perhaps doesn't make a significant amount of worthwhile changes to justify its own existence, which would make it the Assassin's Creed: Revelations of its series. Even so, its relaxed cycle of exploration, figuring out how to get to crystals, helping the Starplants grow and spending a few moments taking in the view from a high vantage point are all still here and accounted for, and that gameplay serenity is nothing to sneeze at. Just keep in mind that you can get all that from the original Grow Home too, if you've yet to try it out.

(This will be a two-day game, so M.O.M. only knows what I'll find to write about tomorrow. Hopefully the game throws a spanner in the works towards the end, because I feel there's something it's still hiding from me. Oh, and I had zero problems with crashes or the like, so that must've been fixed a while ago.)

Still plenty to do, but this overhead camera helps me pinpoint sites of interest. Didn't even need to climb a tall thing to unlock it; though I will need to climb several to get everything.
Still plenty to do, but this overhead camera helps me pinpoint sites of interest. Didn't even need to climb a tall thing to unlock it; though I will need to climb several to get everything.

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