Grow Home

Full disclosure here, despite it’s unique concept and Mario 64 style graphics, Gone Home is not an indie game at all. It’s a product of Ubisoft Reflections, a UK subsidiary of Ubisoft, the people behind Driver, Stuntman, Far Cry 3 and Watch Dogs (so just about everything that isn’t Assassin’s Creed and Rayman by the look of it).

I chose to review it because there was a bit of hype floating around. Reading reviews, I noticed the word ‘lovely’ and ‘unique’ was being thrown around a lot, not something I generally associate with the 79th installment of Assassin’s Creed. So regardless of its AAA status, I decided to review it. ‘Unique’ and ‘lovely’ are the second and third most apt descriptors for this game. The first would be ‘ridiculously frustrating’.

You play a robot called BUD (Botanical-something-Droid), who is growing a giant beanstalk to oxygenate his home planet.  You can grow the buds of the beanstalk to floating rocks in the sky to continue to fertilise the beanstalk. Gone Home is a physics-based adventure game where you are a robot with clamp hands, especially designed for climbing and… well… clamping. You use your amazing hands to climb the beanstalk and continue to grow it. That’s all there is to the game really and in this, there’s definitely a certain level of elegance.

The innovation comes from the control scheme. On the controller, the left trigger controls the left clamp and the right trigger the right one. So as you climb, you have to alternate the buttons. This control system isn’t that bad and while it takes a bit of getting used-to, allows for control of the character and immersion. You can also jump, use a jet-pack to fly and a flower to float down gracefully (avoiding utter destruction).

GrowHome_Announcement_03I agree with the general depiction of the game as ‘lovely’. Cutesy sounds, bright colours and a graphical style similar to a high-definition Nintendo 64 platformer. Despite the simple graphics, I really enjoy them and they suit the general nature of the game.

But I did mention that even though Grow Home looks ‘lovely’ and has a ‘unique’ control system, I found it eternally frustrating. This is mainly due to combination of the physics and the controls. When you have that much control over your character’s movements, it means the game is slightly more complicated. It would be like playing Assassin’s Creed and choosing exactly where the assassin’s hands go. The controls themselves are actually really well done. They’re immersive and effective.

But when joined with the game’s physics, the controls are a pain the arse. You tend to rag doll in the worst possible way, with arms flailing and your robotic body turned to jelly. Which means that if you slightly mis-time a jump, you can’t even catch yourself with your powerful clamps, so beginning your long descent, or more the point, the following slow ascension. The game does try to counter this issue with fast-travel points, flowers that allow you to float down gracefully and eventually a jet pack… but they only helped 50% of the time.

Of course, reading all the other reviews, this could all be down to personal preference, but I just didn’t have the patience for this game and put it down after a couple of hours.

Rating Innovation

The controls are reasonable innovative and successfully immerse you into the game. Also, considering you have two joysticks and two triggers, they pulled off the control scheme really well.

It was also surprising to see Ubisoft try to pull of something so different.

Awesomeness

The general aesthetics of the game are great with a slightly retro twinge, but still keeping to the modern arena.

I did feel that there was poor execution between the controls and physics environment which completely deterred me from continuing to play.

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Grow Home is currently available on Steam for $9.95 USD, uPlay and the Playstation Store for $11.95
 The next review in 3 weeks will be on Armikrog
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