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Hands-On With ‘Grow Up’

Grow Home was one of 2015’s most pleasant gaming surprises. The little game from Ubisoft Reflections in the U.K. was packed with more charm and whimsy than most of its AAA competitors that year, with its minimalist art style, unique climbing controls, and quirky animation system. The sequel, Grow Up, just hit Xbox One consoles, with PC and PS4 versions arriving soon. I recently had the chance to play the game, and I am happy to report that fans of the original won’t be disappointed.

What I Played

Lead Designer Dale Scullion (seen in the video above) walked me through the opening of the game, including the opening cinematic and tutorial. As is the case with most sequels, the developers needed to find a way to strip the game’s charming robot hero, B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid), of his powers so you can start fresh for the new game. In this case, a collision with a moon does the trick. B.U.D. wakes up on an alien planet and must gather up the pieces of M.O.M., his mothership. Along the way, he will regain his old powers, as well as learn a few new tricks.

Since I had played Grow Home, the controls were immediately familiar, and I was soon ready to leave the tutorial and dive into a later stage of the game. In the demo, I had access to nearly all of B.U.D.’s powers, which I could use to explore the enormous world of Grow Up.

The Planet

Grow-Up-World
The world to explore in Grow Up is enormous.

The size of the world is probably one of the first things Grow Home veterans will notice. The new game is much, much bigger than its predecessor. There are several different zones on the alien planet for B.U.D. to explore, each with its own flora and fauna, including Star Plants that are unique to each zone, and have their own special powers and characteristics.

What’s New in Grow Up

Grow-Up

Of course, with such a huge world to explore, B.U.D. needs some new tricks up his sleeve to get around. Luckily, Grow Up has plenty to offer in that regard. The other big change I noticed is that movement is much more fluid and acrobatic this time around. It’s fun to just jump and glide all around the environment playing with B.U.D.’s new powers.

New Powers

Grow-Up-Ball
You can bounce around the world of Grow Up using the new ball mode, which allows you to fall from great heights without taking damage.

The all-new ball mode lets you bounce around the levels and fall from great heights without taking damage. This eliminates one of the most frustrating aspects from Grow Home, where one missed grab or step while climbing could result in instant death. It also includes a charged spin reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog’s Spin Dash.

One of my favorite ways to get around was to fling myself off a ledge in ball mode, then immediately transition to the new Power Glider, which let me zip and float around the planet. When I had to stop and get my bearings, I simply used the air brakes to float in one spot and see where I needed to head next.

Seeds

There are also a variety of seeds at B.U.D.’s disposal that allow him to grow the game’s many exotic plant types on demand. All of these have unique uses and applications for getting around the planet. These include bouncing platforms, platforms that float on water, a catapult, and more.

You can combine these plants with the existing environment (and each other) to — in a way — create custom levels on the fly. Scullion showed me a few examples of how to place bouncing platforms and stack them together on a Star Plant in order to bounce to hard-to-reach locations.

Grow-Up-Power-Glider
The new Power Glider enables you to fly around the planet and admire the beautiful world that Reflections has crafted.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Grow Up and can’t wait to explore and play around with B.U.D.’s new powers some more. Grow Up is currently available on Xbox One and is coming to PS4 and PC later this month.

 


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