It was just a year ago when Ubisoft surprised us with Grow Home. Can Grow Up improve our experience with BUD?
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (tested)
BUD is back. The cute and little robot is once again here for you to explore a new world while trying to recover the missing pieces of your ship. He is playing with MOM when an accident happens, right in the first minute after booting the game, and our ship is destroyed. We are again stranded in an alien planet, and that is how the game starts.
Mechanics wise, BUD is still clumsy, fragile, with a weird way of doing basic things like climbing, just like before. It builds upon the gameplay of its predecessor, but the core abilities remain intact, so the essence is there waiting for you if you enjoyed the first one. What is not like before are the collectibles and the overall experience, it feels more polished than the first time. The title will keep you hooked to whatever platform you decide to buy it for, for up to 8 hrs if you decide to complete it 100%. That may seem too little, but is more than several AAA games are able to deliver, for a fraction of the cost.
Story wise, it is also the same, or at the very least very similar. You are stranded in a world full of plants for you to analyze and discover. There are also very big roots you can feed with nutrients for them to “Grow Up”, while trying to recover parts of the ship’s AI, MOM, which are spread across the planet after she crashed into the moon.
New to the game is the ability to scan various plants, known as Floraforms, which each have unique properties. Once a Floraform has been scanned, B.U.D can plant a seed of it at any time to grow anywhere else. For instance, you will be able to throw down a champoline, and a bouncy mushroom able to boost you up will grow. Planting a funghigh, on the other hand, will grow a plant that we can use as a ladder.
While exploring, BUD will also find ability capsules. These abilities will change how we traverse this new planet, like a jetpack, a gliding, and rolling into a ball Metroid-style. Each ability can be upgraded by collecting crystals hidden across the world. You are able to swap abilities on the fly, granting a sense of freedom the original didn’t have.
A nice improvement is the new world. While still tiny, it is far larger than the previous one. The game shines when makes you go up, but the land spreads in all directions, and it is a pleasure to discover all the little biomes. Snowy peaks, barren deserts, mushroom forests and beautiful waterfalls. POD is a companion that acts as a world map to help us know where we are and where to go, and we can even mark waypoints for new abilities and challenges.
Yes, challenges. They will require BUD to go through multiple checkpoints within a time limit, which is hard when you are playing with a sloppy marionette. You will unlock optional BUD Suits, which each give BUD unique properties, such as a bee suit that attracts bugs or an aviator suit that increases gliding speed
One of the strongest points of Grow Up! is how it forces you to discover this new land. Reaching a floating island in the sky is harder than it should be, but it never feels like a chore. BUD behaves like a ragdoll, but it only adds to the charm of the botanic focused robot. And while there is an incredibly steep learning curve to be fast and efficient with him, the journey is well worth it.
Grow Up! feels really similar to Grow Home. If you enjoyed the first one, you will also enjoy this title. It features a larger world, new abilities and ways to go up and traverse the world, plants to make use of, etc. The charm of the original is still there, and that alone is enough to give it a go.