Game review: Grow Home for Steam

Fair warning that there will be higher than average swearing in this week’s review. That’s because I didn’t play Grow Home so much as I endured as much of it as I could stand before throwing my aching hands up and declaring “fuck this.”  Part of this physical agony could be blamed on my first controller choice, which has triggers with a higher amount of tension than the standard PC gamepad. It’s great for shooters, helping me avoid accidental misfired shots. But here, the constant back and forth of “left shoulder, right shoulder” left me ending sessions with massive hand cramps.

But even setting that aside, this is the kind of half baked formula that could be good with more effort, and instead it got released as good enough in a damn near broken state. It fails to explain some of its most important mechanics, botches control schemes for both gamepad and mouse and keyboard gamers, and adds a list of busy work to drag out what is already a tiring slog.

I got to the point of the game where I had grown the central plant up to the little robot’s (BUD) mothership. (MOM) I collected a star seed and delivered it where I was instructed. Credits rolled, and the game was done, yes? FUCK NO. The game said, “Go fetch eight more seeds for us. Do you want to?” I selected NO, and the game went, “Thank you for your opinion. Now go get them seeds, biyatch.”

It was then that I said, “No. And not just no, but fuck no, and Grow Fuck yourself.”

So, where to begin? With the first run that ended in miserable failure because the tutorial said “Press X to grow the plant shoot,” And not “Oh, and use the left stick to steer where the shoot grows.” So I got to the second level and looked around to discover I had no shoots left to grow. I only learned I could steer because I went to YouTube to see where I’d gone wrong, resulting in me shouting “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!”

Then there’s run two, where with aching hands, I was left literally screaming because no amount of dead zone alteration could stop the shoots from veering wildly off course. I started a run with mouse and keyboard, foolishly thinking that the act of aiming shoots would be with the mouse, but I underestimated how sadistic the people making this game are. Of course the act of aiming would be on the less accurate option.

In run four, I swapped my controller for one with less tension in the triggers and better dead zones on the sticks, and I got to the end credits. Or rather, the first set of credits, I guess. Did that make the game better, or fun? NOPE. This is because even then, I was constantly wrestling with the game’s so-called physics. Any particular climb could end with my little robot’s hands both clipping inside a surface, resulting in the game deciding that it wasn’t clinging to anything and cue another panicked plunge. Multiple shoots decided to ignore my inputs and just do loop-the-loops and barrel rolls, and several decided it would be “funny” to stop growing a meter short of their intended destination, forcing me to stumble back down the vine in search of another shoot. (Which would almost always veer off target to once again stoke my screams of frustration.)

The game also asked me to stick every stupid fucking thing into the fast travel points to scan them, and again, the game won’t let me keep hold of most of the samples. I’d find a plant, confirm that I hadn’t scanned it yet, and as soon as I got it loose from the ground to drag it back to a Tele-Router, the robot’s grip would fail and said object would drop down into the pool of water at the very bottom of the “planet.” (A term so loosely used that Pluto would like a word.)

And because the most fun in modern games is more checklists, I was also tasked with collecting crystals that give out minor upgrades to the robot’s mobility. Oh, now my rocket pack will putter out in three seconds instead of two? Well, that’s still fucking useless.

I’d also like to briefly lament the robot’s drunken walk animation. He’s slow to start, finally gets up to speed, and then stumbles into a somersault whenever his momentum is arrested. The number of times I walked down a vine to jump on a leaf, only to have that little bastard roll off the side and erase all my upward progress…I reiterate, I did not play this. I endured it. For you.

Before I get to the final score, I want to mention that I got Grow Home and the sequel Grow Up as a bundle for four euros. I thought I might review them together, or maybe do a Versus series entry, but I got into the new game to discover that in addition to the controls being changed and the robot’s ability to grab surfaces being even worse, the sadistic developers added a new sidekick named POD who felt the need to talk every ten seconds, like, “Hey, BUD, scan that plant!”

“Hey BUD! Scan that plant!”

“Hey BUD! Scan that plant!”

“Hey BUD! Scan that plant!”

“Hey BUD! Scan that plant!”

Somewhere out there is an asshole who’s proud of themselves for this mess. And somewhere out there is a masochistic gamer insisting that this is actually fun, and I just didn’t give it a fair chance. I’d like to imagine that masochist lives in Stockholm.

Grow Home can have 1 star, the score I reserve for broken unplayable shit because despite clearing that low bar, it left me with hand cramps, burning hate, and the strong desire to Jay and Silent Bob the entire team responsible for this mess and its even more broken sequel. I recommend it to no one. May BUD, MOM, and POD rot in hell with the Atari version of ET.