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The RPS Advent Calendar – Dec 7th: Grow Home

2015's best use of physics.

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What is the best physics game of 2015? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today’s door is…

Grow Home!

John: My son took his first steps yesterday. I cried. He laughed. Hysterically. He’d flop to the floor, guffawing. It was the funniest, most extraordinary thing he’d ever experienced, it seems. This was a moment I found myself looking forward to since I first played Grow Home.

The little red robot, BUD, with his procedurally animated legs finds walking really tricky. While the game’s core mechanic is certainly his far more in-control climbing arms, the stumbling, unsteady legs are what made Grow Home so much more affecting for me. BUD, because of his wobbly ways, is vulnerable, and that vulnerability makes looking after him as he climbs the giant tree to his spaceship far more important.

Once you’ve mastered BUD’s movement, it becomes significantly less important that he isn’t so great on his feet. Jetpacking him about, grabbing and climbing with the analogue sticks, he begins to feel capable, more independent, and for me the analogy with a kid learning to walk is only further underlined by this.

I remember thinking as I wrote my original review, how my paternal instincts for BUD would only be crazier were my own kid trying to figure out how to use his legs. And by cosmic coincidence, he tried that for the first time last night. I’m fairly certain Toby’s legs are procedurally animated.

Adam: My analysis of BUD’s wonderfully animated stumbles and slip-ups is also an unwitting analysis of the fundamental difference between my life and John’s. While I’m not immune to the hilarious charm of human beings attempting to assert control over their first vertical amblings, the top-heavy flailing motion of BUD didn’t bring toddling to mind: I only saw the survivors of a Saturday night, reeling through the sleeping streets in search of home. Or a filthy kebab shop in the hope that spongy meat will absorb some of the toxic fizz currently sloshing about their innards.

Only the Euphoria tech driving human animation in latter day Grand Theft Autos (I much prefer Grand Thefts Auto as a plural) has caused me to spend quite so much time playing with the physics of a controllable character. That Grow Home drops that character into a beautifully realised world that looks like it’s been plucked from a classic 3d platformer and provides a clear objective and set of tools to play with en route is marvelous.

Even without BUD’s wonderful procedural perambulations, Grow Home would be fantastic. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the plant itself is the real star of the show. It begins as a method to travel through the level but as you take semi-control of its growth spurts and offshoots, it becomes the level.

There’s often talk about the beauty of destructible environments. Grow Home achieves something entirely different and seems to do so effortlessly. It’s a game that takes place in an environment created dynamically and in real-time, and that is astonishing.

Go here for more of our picks for the best PC games of 2015.

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