Giant Bomb Review

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Grow Up Review

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  • PS4
  • PC

Drifting over the polygonal landscape looking for crystals is still a peaceful good time, if you can overlook a few flaws.

Gliding is a fun way to get around, but it makes the climbing feel trivial.
Gliding is a fun way to get around, but it makes the climbing feel trivial.

I didn't want to live in a world where the sequel to Grow Home was the slightest bit disappointing, but even goofy little climbing robots can't always get what they want. Grow Up is built around the same tactile hand-over-hand climbing mechanic that made Grow Home one of 2015's best little games, and this sequel makes a valiant attempt to blow out Grow Home's bite-size experience with a big old world map and more things to do. It's still satisfying to claw your way up a giant beanstalk and collect every last crystal in sight, but some new mechanics that don't play to the game's strengths and disappointing performance on console make Grow Up harder to love than it should be.

Grow Up at least nails its setting by expanding the first game's small floating-island motif into a full planetoid, complete with multiple biomes, an asteroid belt, and a ton of caves to spelunk. Everyone's favorite inebriated, stumbly robot B.U.D. finds himself stranded there after his wisecracking spaceship M.O.M. crashes and distributes her debris all over the place for you to go collect. The simple, flat-polygon look of the first game is even more effective here, as it's used to render a wider variety of places like a desert, a polar glacier, and a glowing giant-mushroom forest in expressive strokes. The game also makes great use of its day/night system by having the planetoid actually rotate, so the day and night phases actually move around the planet. In other words, not only will you experience dawn and dusk if you hang out in one place long enough, but once you get some of the late-game mobility upgrades, you can also fly around the planet (which takes like two minutes tops) and literally chase the sunset. With the final aerial upgrades, you can even orbit the planet, sailing peacefully through space as the world turns below you. It's a gorgeous game to explore and float around in, and it does a fantastic job of establishing mood.

The landscape and time of day do a great job of creating atmosphere.
The landscape and time of day do a great job of creating atmosphere.

If you played Grow Home, you know exactly what the core gameplay is here: each shoulder button controls a hand, letting you grip any surface and climb up it in a loose, dynamic way that feels oddly liberating. Initially you'll get around the world purely by climbing--which worked well in a very small space like that of Grow Home--but the game world is so much bigger this time around that at first it feels a little cumbersome to cover any real distance quickly. Grow Up's solution is to start dishing out jetpack upgrades faster than its predecessor, and it also quickly gives you a glider so you can capitalize on all the falling you'll inevitably be doing as you tumble off of one sky island or another. Gliding is in itself a fun way to get around (although it's infuriating that the game reverses the glider controls depending on which way the camera is facing), but by the time you get the upgrade that lets you combine the jetpack and glider for some straight-up powered flight, it's easy to forget you could ever climb in the first place. The flight options, useful as they are, seem like a strange circumvention of what made the first game interesting.

This sequel also gives B.U.D. the ability to fill out a plant index by finding and scanning two dozen different plant forms as you run into them. Once you scan a plant, you can then grow it anywhere you want by tossing its seed on the ground. This idea is pretty neat in concept, and it lets you do some ridiculous stuff like building a mile-high tower of bouncy mushrooms, but in practice all two dozen of the available plants serve the same purpose--elevate you into the air quickly--so you'll generally find the one you like and just stick with that. Or not, because the level design usually places the relevant plants right where you need them anyway, and again, you'll quickly get the flight upgrades that make all your other methods of gaining height redundant. The plant mechanics are a neat idea that don't really, uh, blossom in the way they deserve. There's also a new ability to roll B.U.D. up into a ball, morph ball-style, but I never found even one situation where that ability seemed especially useful.

Yo you wanna grab this B.U.D. and get hiiiiiiigh?
Yo you wanna grab this B.U.D. and get hiiiiiiigh?

Most of what you're doing to progress in Grow Up, you already did in Grow Home. Instead of one starplant to grow up into the sky and reach the highest islands, you now grow three; the hundred crystals you collected in the first game are followed up here with half again as many. That stuff is still fun to engage with on a basic level, so that familiar repetition isn't totally damning, but when you consider that Grow Up's new content consists primarily of timed race challenges (the bottom-tier fodder of open-world side content), the whole package feels a little thin. Don't even try to tackle those challenges early in the game, before you have a better jetpack and glider; that's a recipe for extreme frustration. Later on, with all your flight upgrades, finishing them becomes utterly trivial. At that point, the hardest thing about the timed challenges is finding them all. The game has a world map that does helpfully mark items of interest automatically, but once you've finished most of the activities, the map doesn't give you any way to pinpoint the few items you have left. I spent a maddening two extra hours scouring the world for the last two challenges I'd missed before finally discovering them hiding in places where the map didn't make them particularly visible.

Still, Grow Up does enough right that I stuck out its quirks and did 100 percent of everything there was to do, and all of this is quite a bit easier to forgive when you consider that Grow Up costs a measly 10 bucks. The console game has some disappointing performance issues--the PS4 version runs drastically worse than the first game did on the same platform--but on even a modest PC it looks and runs great. There, it's worth paying the low asking price (and overlooking a few flaws) just to drift placidly through the heavens, surveying the lush polygonal landscape below.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+

31 Comments

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UnInvincible

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I've still had a really good time with what I've played of the game so far, but I agree with Brad's rating and thoughts. It's the classic situation of a sequel that adds a bunch of new things that don't really integrate into the game in a meaningful way. I'll probably do the same as Brad and eventually 100% it, but I've already had the thought that I should just go play through Grow Home a few times.

@brad The one use for the morph-ball I found is to be able to fall down holes with wind blowing upwards. So if there is a cave below that B.U.D. can't usually fall down into because of an updraft, you can morph and fall into the cave and find a crystal or whatever. There's like always another entrance to those caves though, so I understand why you never needed to use it.

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hassun

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Edited By hassun • 

I guess it's not a complete surprise the concept can't carry more than 1 game without being watered down a bit.

Never been a fan of timed challenges.

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joetom

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joetom • 

So @brad I take it if I haven't played either of these, I'd be better off going back to the first one?

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poobumbutt

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poobumbutt • 

@joetom: JUST going to ask that. Especially since I only have a PS4, it seems extra misguided to get this over Grow Home.

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jacksukeru

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jacksukeru • 

Yeah, while I still enjoyed this game a bunch for what it does (and it still tops the first game when it comes to ridiculous scale and simple beauty) it's more the standard kind of open world enjoyment of getting around and checking things off a list that I got from this sequel.

What really stood out to me about the original was that it had a real tangible feeling of risk to the platforming. Miss a jump or place your hand poorly while climbing a ceiling and you'll soon be at the mercy of gravity. The flowers that slowed your fall was a limited resource and could get you back to safety if you were lucky and quick enough, or just merely prevent from impact once you reached the ground. Now not only is the parachute and glide mechanics early upgrades with unlimited use, I'm pretty sure that the ball form negates any fall damage as well.

It's tough for me to see where else they could have gone with it when it came to expanding the first game's concept. I just think that it's a shame that it didn't hit what was for me the most inspiring part of the original.

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spike0918

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spike0918 • 

I think it's somewhat surprising that Brad is didn't see the use of morph-ball form, the speed boost ability of the ball is the quickest way to cover horizontal space quickly. You can even traverse most of the planet practically in orbit if you use the boost to fling off of one of the higher cliffs. However, this increased movement and control(not to mention all of plants), like Brad mentioned, does sort of trivialize the climbing earlier than it feels like it should.

I'm one ship part away from having them all, and I only grew one of the plants all the way. Once I had enough crystals/upgrades for glide+3 batteries+upgraded jetpack I realized I could pretty easily gain height. I sorta regret getting this far rushing through the game like this, but I have to admit it is kinda fun to somewhat sequence break the game in a way.

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AV_Gamer

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AV_Gamer • 

I didn't see anything special about the first game, and this one seems less of that. I might give it a try, someday.

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mach_go_go_go

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Absolutely. (I've played both).

Not to be harsh, But Grow Up is basically Wayne's World 2.

@joetom said:

So @brad I take it if I haven't played either of these, I'd be better off going back to the first one?

@joetom: JUST going to ask that. Especially since I only have a PS4, it seems extra misguided to get this over Grow Home.

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Onemanarmyy

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Edited By Onemanarmyy • 

I feel like people last year already pointed out the pitfalls that a sequel to Grow Home can fall into. It's sad to see that they fell into the pitfall of ' the ubisoft design' that comes with having a bigger map. Putting abilities in the game that make the climbing mechanic which the game revolves around unnessecary, is a shame .

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carlos707

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carlos707 • 

I really enjoy playing this game merely for the mechanical feel of moving BUD. Not since Super Mario Galaxy have I just enjoyed moving a character around this much. And the spherical world is similarly trippy as Mario Galaxy's as well.

Ill 100% just for an excuse to jump and fly around some more.

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yaos

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yaos • 

The same score as No Man's Sky?

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bigmess

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bigmess • 

Looks like this year's BUD ain't as dank as last year's OG BUD?

I really would love to see the climbing mechanic in something like an Assassin's Creed. Ubisoft made climbing buildings in those games so trivial that it would so refreshing to just do some pure raw hand-over-hand climbing like Grow Home.

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derhata

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derhata • 

@yaos: also the same score that many other games that have very few in common have. i dont think the review scores are there to be weighted against other review scores (wasnt that the whole point of not giving points on a 1-100 scale?)

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spankingaddict

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Darknorth

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Darknorth • 

2016, the year of really fun 3 star games.

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vhdblood

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vhdblood • 

I absolutely agree with this score and review. The game is fun but it feels like they didn't find the "thing" that could have extended the franchise. I'm not sure what they was, but it's clear from playing this game that it's not here.

I got all the ship parts in about 2 hours or so. I climbed the desert tower and it happened to be the highest point (I think) that a ship part is at, so I was able to glide with like 30 crystals worth of upgrades and get all the ship parts right away.

The intro was awesome and gave me a great feeling seeing all of the world to explore. However like Brad said, you're either climbing and falling or you're too upgraded and you're skipping it all. I think the novelty of the first game wore off as that game ended.

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stinger061

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stinger061 • 

I understand the desire to take advantage of a surprise hit by making a sequel but it seems like this is a case of stretching a novel idea too thin. I fear we may see a few of these in the coming years on the back of a bunch of really successful smaller titles recently.

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NoneSun

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NoneSun • 

I didn't really need a review to decide on a purchase or not, but thanks Brad. I'll play more Grow Home (and by that I mean Grow Up).

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ajamafalous

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Loved the first game, but this review basically echoes what I was afraid of in the initial trailers for this one.

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ripelivejam

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playing the first one is probably an easy way to knock one game off my backlog pretty quickly, i think...

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colourful_hippie

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Think I'll play this one seeing on how I skipped the first

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Aethelred

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Aethelred • 

My theory is that the developers came up with the planet idea first, and then they struggled to think of something to put in the empty spaces between the Star Plants. All that they came up with are floating islands with timed challenges.

Another complaint that Brad didn't mention: When using the tele-routers, they don't appear to be in any order. In Grow Home, they were ordered by height and shown on a diagram, but in Grow Up, I was always having to go through the whole list.

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iowcatalyst

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Edited By iowcatalyst • 

I like the look of this, though I liked the look of the first game but still haven't completed it, will have to finish it some when. The performance of the first game on the pc was bad I thought, my frame counter said 60fps constantly but when moving the camera it felt more like 40 or 50 , could never understand why.
I think this game looks a lot better in terms of movement, the way you could fly around looked awesome.

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flameboy84

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flameboy84 • 

My PC couldn't handle the original and I don't own a PS4 only an Xbox One so I couldn't play the original due to that this game definitely scores high just because it feels more new and fresh.

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estragon

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estragon • 

Seems like they just ubisoftized the game. What was this neat charming game is now an open world checklist game.

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ripelivejam

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@iowcatalyst: ive had poor experiences with a few ubisoft games. far cry games though seem to run quite nicely.

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frankiebeanz

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played this longer than no man sky and had a lot of fun defiantly recommend it I also like the first one too but this one is better

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Afro_Stevens

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I'm just glad that this exists in the first place. Now I need to go back and get all the crystals in the first game before I play this.

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ferenz

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ferenz • 

This game seems like a slightly depressing story about what happens to creative, personal work in the hands of a major publisher. I don't mean that as a doom and gloom "publishers are evil" statement, as I like to play video games and I understand that publishers make most of that happen, but this game in particular just feels a bit dirty and cheap based on its history.

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walterbennet

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Edited By walterbennet • 
@spike0918 said:

I think it's somewhat surprising that Brad is didn't see the use of morph-ball form, the speed boost ability of the ball is the quickest way to cover horizontal space quickly.

Bingo. You use it like a Sonic dash off of any cliff, and then immediately can switch to jetpack to continue that momentum forward. It's the best way to get around before you get the powered glider. It's one of those things that during the quicklook, I was like, "Dude, Brad!"

I can't argue with 3 stars, but personally, I had a blast with this game. I enjoyed Grow Home, but not enough to see it through. But with Grow Up, I enjoyed every minute of it. It's a bigger, better version of that game.