Ed Quinn

REVIEW: Reflection’s Grow Home Earns a spot among the PlayStation Plus alumni

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Newcastle-based Reflections has pitted its latest game against two others to become the first voted-in PlayStation Plus game. Usually players are treated to a pre-determined set of old, couple ‘o’ quid PS3 gems, a new struggling PS4 title and some sort of indie treat. This time around, players were given the choice of which they’d like to be free. Reflections can now proudly boast that Grow Home, their latest third-person adventure game, has come up on top, beating the two other contenders, Zombie Vikings and Armello.

The basic premise is that you are B.U.D (Botanical Utility Droid), a cute little red robot whos tasked with making a huge plant called the Star Plant grow as tall as possibly in order to harvest the seeds. Along the way you explore new areas on floating islands rich in vegetation and wildlife, all with a polygonal aesthetic. There are no enemies to speak of, so you can be forgiven for mistaking this as a “walking-simulator”. You know the kind of game I mean; the ones where you’re plonked into an oil-based painting of an environment and expected to walk about as a vague semblance of a narrative unfolds (or maybe not). Think of first-person affairs like Dear Esther and Proteus. Aside from being third person, the thing that stops this game from being artsy walking porn, is that fact that B.U.D can’t walk to save his life.

Akin with the heavy-handed mother and son metaphor the game is going for, B.U.D himself plays like an excited child; fumbling his way through an vibrant, unexplored land, which is uplifting and whimsical, but also somewhat infuriating.  B.U.D’s movement in the game makes the Honda robot look downright graceful. The game does a very good job of actually making you feel like you’re clinging on for dear life, because his drunken toddler-stumbles means he can, and will, fall off of very tall plant stalks, forcing you to climb up from the very bottom again. This being said, find a spot to high up, and you have fun free-falling as long as you can; your past accomplishments whooshing past you like your life is flashing before your eyes, which, if you didn’t bother packing a floaty flower parachute thingy, is probably the case.

Aiding the tedious climbing is the fact that there are several checkpoints interspersed through the floating islands to help relax your R1 and L1 pressing fingers. There’s a fair few scattered about  to somewhat ease the pain of constantly climbing, as well as bouncing mushrooms, to give you some added lift, among the many differing eco-systems as you climb higher and higher. The feeling of discovery is still ever-present, but the margin of error when it comes to climbing back up to where you were is infuriatingly high, which could potentially put people off before they even have a chance to see the rest of the game. Or maybe I’m just bad at keeping my footing.

The game scatters about several crystals embedded in rock that you must pull out to retrieve, with varying degrees of success. It’s never clear what requires sustained pulling, or whether it needs two hands; regardless you can be sure that it works the same as climbing and thus gives them R1 and L1 fingers of yours the work-out of their lives. The crystals eventually start to unlock tings, such as the ability to zoom out vast distances to drink in your surroundings. The fact that this is treated as a reward for the player suggests that the views you’re given are a treat. However the polygonal style hardly makes the view that jaw-dropping; even at very vast heights it provokes responses such as “Oh”, “Ah cool”, as well as the dreaded “Meh”.

For a free game, it’s worth a download, and even for £6.00 on Steam, it’s still a look, but it has a pretty short life span. Outside of the one long play-through you can squeeze out of Grow Home there isn’t a great deal to keep you hanging around. Give it a try for a brief burst of whimsy and humorous clambering.

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