Grow Up

I was itching for a change. I think I grew tired of fighting. I didn't want to shoot, or be attacked, or fiercely compete. I needed to relax. I needed to explore without fear, and to take it slow. I needed a BUD.

This month (July 2017) the Xbox Games with Gold program brought me exactly what I needed. Grow Up, the sequel to Ubisoft's experimental 3D platformer/climber Grow Home is exquisitely easy-going. You're a robot plunked down on an exotic planet after your spacecraft blows up. Parts are scattered around said planet. You need to find those parts, along with some fun movement abilities and crystals to augment them. That's it.

The basic climbing mechanic is simple, but can get a bit fiddly. The repeated left trigger right trigger, hand over hand movement feels pretty good. But, more than once I thought I had crested a mountain, mushroom, or floating hunk of rock only to find that my uncontrollable feet did not agree. I would then tumble off and deploy my parachute. Ironically it was during one of these moments, gently floating through the sky and watching the gorgeous sunset, that I realized I wasn't bothered by imprecise climbing.

Enemies? No way. The native species mean you no harm. Some may follow you at a polite distance for a time, others ignore you completely. I once grabbed a beetle and flipped him on his back. Horrified that he could no longer move, I refused to abandon him until he was right side up and on his way. Be the change you want to see on this heap of polygons hurtling through space.

As I grew to love Grow Up, I wondered why it appealed to me so much more than a traditional 3D platformer that has you running all over a world, collecting things. I think I've narrowed it down to three great strengths:

  1. For the most part, it leaves you alone. You have a companion that lets you know when you're near a ship part or new ability. There are no other characters giving you chores to do or locking you out of part of the world.

  2. The world is truly open and fun to explore. You won't find anything to do other than collect things and look at things. But the things you collect often make it easier and more enjoyable to get around, and thanks to a day/night cycle and exotic, glowing plants, it's pretty interesting to look at too.

  3. No pressure. You can do what you want, whenever you want to do it. There are no enemies harassing you and no clocks ticking down unless you start them yourself. I tried a time trial and was instantly turned off. The controls just aren't precise enough to make quickly hitting checkpoints more satisfying than frustrating.

Grow Up has quickly become my game to pair with a podcast and a drink. At the end of a demanding day, it's a wonderfully undemanding treat.