The RPS Advent Calendar – Dec 7th: Grow Home

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.

19 Comments

  1. thedosbox says:

    Yay, this was one of my favourite games of the year. It’s one of the few games which put a big cheshire cat grin on my face whenever I played it.

    Not sure why it’s being described as a co-op game though.

    • Malkara says:

      Looks like a mistake- the actual name of the article (and thus the likely intended category) is ‘best-physics-game’.

    • Todd Hawks says:

      Yeah, looks like copy paste error

  2. iambecomex says:

    Not only an enjoyable and charming game, but a good one for young kids, too. My nephew and niece, aged 7 and 5, got to grips with it pretty easily. It’s always nice to have my nephew asking to play something that is actually suitable for him, rather than what he’s seen being played on YouTube.

  3. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Great little game. Something about BUD and the feel of the game meant that even when he stumbled off an edge I never got frustrated. The metroidvania aspects, as you unlock/discover more ways to move around, were nice too.

  4. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    Besides being absolutely lovely, Grow Home has the most amazing progression curve I’ve ever seen in a game, from a tiny robot who’s having trouble climbing on a small boulder to something huge and majestic and beautiful. What an incredibly charming game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Did you mean “… to a tiny robot having trouble climbing up something huge, majestic and beautiful”?

      Delightful game, and pretty compelling too, especially when you get into the zone of flinging BUD about like some kind of angular monkey.

  5. tr76 says:

    Such a lovely game, BUD is absolutely adorable!

  6. Rhodokasaurus says:

    I agree that this is one of the best games of the year. I love how even though it’s all flat-colored polygons, the lighting gives everything a soft velvety look.

    It’s a damn shame it sold so poorly. Even at $8.00 it couldn’t break 100k sales in the first year, which if I were Ubisoft would discourage me from funding more indie games.

    Here’s where I get on my soapbox and say “Fucking kids, can’t appreciate a damn thing unless its about shooting people in drab photo-real environments”.

  7. Urthman says:

    This was my favorite game of the year. The movement mechanics are so much fun and movement becomes more and more delightful as you unlock more ways to move around the environment (I count eight distinct modes of player-controlled movement, not counting just falling from a great height).

    This game gave me the best feeling of don’t-look-down-I’m-way-too-high-up vertigo since Giants: Citizen Kabuto.

    And it’s such a charming environment with adorable animals everywhere and lots of nifty secret places to find.

  8. Banks says:

    I loved this too, such a joy to play and explore.

  9. Toupee says:

    I love love love this game.

  10. InternetBatman says:

    I love Grow Home. I have to say the game gets more fun the more you play. Discovering secret caves and the hanglider leaf is a fun experience. I wish I had more to do in it, or could play a sequel.

  11. Zekiel says:

    John’s original review described this game as “lovely” and I completely agree. It was a little frustrating in places, but the sense of wonder at discovering new bits of vertical world, and delight at watching BUD totter about completely made up for it. Marvellous.

  12. Bassem says:

    Absolutely love this game. I want more of it, I want more worlds to explore – the early concept art looked so promising. I wish they’d give us more. I would happily pay for it.