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I remember the days when indie games were the way to go for riffing-on reviews, but now it seems that the mainstream market is the low hanging fruit. To some degree I think this can be attributed to lower standards with indie games- people will put up with a little crap if it costs jack. Well, Ubisoft thought they could get in on that action with Grow Home, a game about a cute robot and his quest for a two kilometer tall phallus.

You are B.U.D., a botanical utility droid, because at this point acronyms are more about what cuet word you can make, rather than actually making sense or sounding natural. Your job it so collect crystals and grow a plant, but as with most jobs the real fun is to goof off and kill dodo birds. You grow your plant by grabbing its branches and guiding them into floating rocks that presumable have some nutrient in them, and once you grow tall enough, you can return to M.O.M. and give her a seed, and my god someone at Ubisoft needs some counselling!

Thankfully, finding out which Ubisoft employee it is that has an Oedipus complex shouldn’t be too hard, because, if you haven’t noticed, this is a pretty small game. It was developed by eight people, which at first made me optimistic, as it meant we might not be hearing from whoever it is at Ubisoft that keeps coming up with terrible ideas. But then I looked at the main gameplay mechanic and realized this was just one big radio tower climb.

Well, shoot, but at least with such a small get they surely couldn’t mess up the graphics, oh wait, of course they did. Watching videos of the game online it may look like an extremely smooth and aesthetically pleasing experience, but keep in mind that the people who make those videos typically have computers worth more than your kidneys. I have a damn good gaming laptop myself, and even on the lowest graphical settings I couldn’t get the thing running consistently above ten fps. The polygonal cell-shaded graphics look nice, but I’d appreciate them much more in video format rather than a slideshow.

Growing the plant is a lot of fun, and provides a nice difficulty curve. Early on most islands are within reach of a single branch, but pretty soon you have to chain them together with sprouts that grow on the branches. For the last section I decided to try and reach every island starting from one branch, and threw some double helixes in for heaven piercing purposes.

It gets damn frustrating when you fall off near the top and have to climb all the way back up with sparse teleports to help, but the sight of your entire plant as you make your fatal fall almost makes it worth it. But in case falling to your death still isn’t appealing, there are some ways to pretend to save yourself, but are utterly ineffective. After collecting enough power-up crystals, B.U.D. gets a jet pack, but once he starts falling any faster than a feather it becomes absolutely useless. There are also two types of plants you can pick up for aerial navigation, a flower and a leaf. The flower lets you glide for a short time if you want to delay the inevitable, and the leaf lets you experience the worth controls ever made. Though that’s not fair to the leaf; the entire game has terrible controls.

I expect it has something to do with the procedural animation, but B.U.D. can’t walk in a straight line. The jump button only works when he’s on the ground, which is reasonable, however whether or not he is on the ground at any given point seems to be determined by a coin flip. But I think it’s the camera that’s the worst. It zooms way too far in while climbing, which will sometimes make the game not render B.U.D., and then he’ll just let go and fall. Zooming out is considered a power-up and has to be unlocked, but it’s not any better. When you can zoom out it goes too far and you can’t tell what B.U.D. is doing.

Despite the terrible camera, controls and visual feedback, I still beat the game in under two hours.

Grow Home is just another bad Ubisoft game, somewhere between Assassin’s Creed Unity and Watch Dogs. But at 10$ CAD, it’s found the right price for a bad Ubisoft game.

Don’t Lose Your Way