Grow Home is a prime example of a game with a great premise but very sloppy execution.
The narrative of the game is that you are robot who has landed on a foreign planet with the objective of analysing the life while also growing the planet’s large tree high enough so you can return to your mother ship.
Initially this seems like a great idea for a game, but in reality it turns out to be far more tedious than it is fun.
One of the game’s central mechanics is that your character controls very awkwardly in a similar manner to games like Octodad.
There is a short period where movement will feel foreign to you, but after a couple of quick tutorials you easily get the hang of being able to move in any way you want.
The major problems with the movement don’t begin until you reach the tree and start attempting to grow home.
Your first attempt at climbing the tree will in all likelihood go smoothly, but all hell starts breaking loose one you start grabbing onto limbs and weaving your way upwards to platforms.
Growing the tree requires you to guide newly developed branches into floating islands, which give the tree nutrients, and shoots it further towards the sky.
These branches are much smaller and less forgiving than when climbing the trunk of the tree and many times the game will not detect a grab and you will be randomly falling in a downward spiral, likely towards your death.
The obvious solution to this would be to build a tree that is ever so slightly pushing upwards, however this is impossible after about ten minutes as the distance and height of the platforms you must reach become unrealistic to reach unless you’re rising at a decent pace.
It’s also not uncommon to incur random deaths such as having your head caught between rocks while exploring a cave, forcing you to spend another couple of minutes climbing back to where you were for something you had no control over.
Speaking of climbing back to where you were for minutes on end; be prepared to spend most of the game doing exactly that.
Whether through the game’s fault or human error you will fall off a lot and have to climb back to where you were which gets incredibly tedious around the latter stages of the game.
It can be particularly frustrating to even attempt to climb back onto the tree after re-spawning, as unless you’ve grown the tree in a specific way the limbs may make your jump back a nightmare.
Grow Home’s gameplay never really deviates from the simple grow and climb, outside of the occasional run in with an animal and the difficulty of each growth level doesn’t change all that much.
The game makes an attempt at skill progression by giving you a new skill each time you collect ten power-ups, such as increased jetpack time.
However, it’s quite annoying when one of these “skills” is actually just a basic camera control function that really should be something that you start the game off with.
I also found there was a problem with the game’s attempts to make you feel like you were getting better at scaling the tree. In the beginning you can pick up regular flowers and use them to glide in case you fall off the tree or want to make a jump to a platform.
About halfway through your climb you come across the guide leaf which is supposed to be an improved parachute over regular flowers, despite the fact that it controls far worse than the regular flowers and by the time you’ve spent long enough practicing using it for it to have any use, the game’s over.
It’s a major oversight when using the “worse” ability is actually much easier in the long run.
By far the most entertaining aspect of Grow Home is that you have a major input in how your tree grows.
You have complete choice of how it twists and winds and how many branches it takes to get to the nutrient giving islands and you can even weave a safety net of sort if you’re not too confident in your climbing, allowing you to land safely and not have as much of a tedious climb back from a checkpoint.
This gives your play-through a unique vibe and creates a sort of loving connection between you and the life you’ve just built all the way from the ground to space.
It was also a very nice touch on the developer’s part to give you a complete view of your tree during the closing credits, giving the game a sorely needed satisfying conclusion.
The only “glitch” I ran into during the game wasn’t really a glitch, but more of a huge oversight on the developers’ part.
It appears that at the beginning of the game it is entirely possible to screw up growing your tree branches, forcing you to restart the game. Thankfully this is in the very beginning so it isn’t too time consuming.
Ultimately, Grow Home is a game that has a serious problem balancing frustration and fun. Sculpting this tree should be an entertaining two to three hour experiences, but instead it’s hampered by controls that don’t always work, resulting in you spending most of the game re-climbing to areas that you’ve already reached. Grow Home is amazing in concept, but in execution it leaves a lot to be desired.