Grow Home is probably one of the sweetest games of all time. It tells the story of a small botanical utility droid called BUD who’s been tasked by his MOM (also his mothership) to go down to a newly discovered planet, grow a big plant and harvest some seeds to bring back home with him. It’s lovely, and it makes you a lovelier person for having played it, I promise.
It’s a classic coming of age tale. As a young, fragile robot, BUD’s wobbly, procedurally generated limbs feel like you’re controlling a newborn lamb when he first touches down on the low, sandy beach of this strange new planet. He’s all knees and elbows, and it can take some time before you feel like you’ve truly found your feet. By the end, though, you’re a bounding, confident robo-ram, leaping across the landscape and flinging yourself from the sides of its floating islands in search of new footholds below, all so you can bring home those all important star plant seeds to your beloved MOM.
Best played with a controller, each of BUD’s arms are mapped to their corresponding trigger buttons. Hold one down and his tiny robot fist clamps onto the nearest surface, giving you purchase to seek out your next grip point with your other hand. Do this back and forth and you’ll gradually wiggle your way upwards, allowing you to climb to ever greater heights.
It’s an important skill you’ll need to master over the course of Grow Home, but the real joy this Ubisoft Reflections gem is when you finally reach a flowering star plant. When you grab one of its red flowers, the plant springs to life like some kind of botanical rodeo, letting you soar through the air all topsy-turvy-like as you guide it toward one of the many floating energy rocks. Once the flower shoot ploughs itself into one of these, the star plant can continue to grow, bringing you one step closer to reuniting with your MOM up in the sky.
Another special shout out to the various teleporters you’ll find scattered around the place, which let you go back and forth between the game’s different ecosystems. They’re a bit boring, all told – why you’d use one of them over chucking yourself off a cliff and watching BUD perform one of his epic free-falls is utterly beyond me – but I do still have a bit of a soft spot for them. You see, BUD teleports via Wi-Fi, and to convey this techy sensation, Ubisoft Reflections chose to make them sound like those old, screechy modems from the days of dial-up internet. And for someone of my age who remembers the internet back in those days, it’s just another lovely little detail that just makes you go “D’awwww, how sweet”.
Ultimately, Grow Home is a calm and gentle game about climbing, growing plants and doing something nice for your mum (sorry, mom). It doesn’t take that long to complete – an afternoon should see you through it – but it’s the kind of thing that feels like a big, warm hug by the time you’re done. Good thing, then, that they made another one called Grow Up. Grab it and its sequel on Steam or Humble.