Grow-up, a sequel to the gorgeous physics-based platformer, Grow Home. It’s a fairly old game, released in 2016 by Reflections, a Ubisoft studio, however it most certainly deserves the praise it has received.
You play the game as B.U.D, a clumsy little robot who must scale the seemingly limitless heights of planet earth to eventually reach the moon. On the way you can earn various powerups that will aid you on this sublime expedition.
I adore the B.U.D character, his occasional mechanical squeaks and chimes of joy as you discover abilities and pieces of the broken ship make him feel more human than robot. The B.U.D character itself has intentionally clumsy mechanics to add to the difficulty of the platforming. You start off as just a bare-bones robot, with nothing but your arms and legs to traverse the expansive lands. As you progress through the world, you can discover and unlock various powerups that include: a jetpack, a glider, airbrakes. Etc. The second you unlock the jetpack, so much more of the world becomes accessible. You can start to make huge, death-defying jumps from one island to another, jumping from high areas to lower ones and experiencing the speed as you blitz past the environment is a feeling I can only truly experience in this game.
World design is fantastic, it’s low poly art style really complements the diversity of the player environment. The world is built much like a minecraft world, with an assortment of mini-biomes stitched together. Unlike minecraft, it is not infinitely generating, and also has far more vertical elements. Traversing upwards is just as, if not more enjoyable than exploring the land below, as there is hardly any repetition of mechanics, whenever you reach a new height, the way to further progress upwards always changes, which keeps the game entertaining.
However, I think B.U.D’s alcoholic simulating maneuvering mechanics are a little over-exaggerated, as when platforming from one island to another, or performing any sort of jump for that matter, you must first completely stop, then angle yourself and then jump. If you jump while moving, your trajectory will change. While this is physically accurate, and adds to the risk of platforming from one island to another especially as you reach higher areas, I think they could’ve toned it down a little.
Another fascinating aspect of the game is this sort of pokedex mechanic. Essentially certain plants and trees have special properties, such as acting as a trampoline for you to jump higher, or as a geyser to boost you into the sky. Whenever you first discover such a plant, you can scan it and save the entry to your inventory. Then you can simply plant one wherever or whenever you desire and use its property to help you get to where you need to be.
The overall game design is simple, but absolutely gorgeous. The visceral atmosphere created from a blend of various colours and textures evokes a feeling of unity in the world, yet every biome is different enough to seem like its own mini-world within this game. The sky also shifts colours depending on where you are, simulating a day and night cycle. My only gripe is that once you reach a certain height, everything around you begins to follow one single, and in my opinion not particularly aesthetic colour scheme. The islands around you turn dark brown, while the greenery loses most of its saturation, and the islands overall sort of merge into 1 shade of colour.
Another thing worth pointing out is that a lot of the objects lack shading. Despite the sharp sun glaring down onto this planet, many objects and plants form dull shadows.
Other than that, and also keeping in mind that this game is 4 years old, I think Reflections did a fantastic job with the graphic aspect of this game, especially the vibrant colour scheme.
Controls + Optimisation:
I found the controls to be a bit finicky. There were a lot of keys that needed to be pressed in rapid succession, and the layout didn’t suit me. Especially when trying to control both of B.U.D’s arms or when trying to counteract the laws of physics when controlling him.
Therefore I switched to an Xbox controller, and immediately found it much easier to operate B.U.D. After that it was smooth sailing.
As for the optimization, this game ran very well. Granted it is 4 years old and not very graphically demanding due to its low-poly nature. I’m positive modern PCs can comfortably hit 144FPS with decent graphics.
I did run into the occasional stutter while playing, however it was only for a split second and didn’t particularly hamper my playing experience.
I would highly suggest this game if open world exploration is your jam. Even if it’s not, something about this game’s almost barren environments and serene background music makes it very soothing. Therefore, especially in times like this where you want to escape the real world and delve into some enchanting open world exploration, this game is for you. It’s an expansive, dazzling experience all packed into a compact, indie package.