In a first for Sony, PS+ users were able to vote for the game they wanted to see released for free on the PSN for September 2015. With three options available, Grow Home was the clear cut winner. To my chagrin I decided to boot it up because curiosity got the better of me. I was wondering how the lowest priced game with a bad trailer beat the competition, one of which had ‘Zombies’ in the title.
Grow Home is an adventure platformer where you play as B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid), a child like robot who is dropped onto a planet that contains a star plant. His objective is simple; in order to oxygenate his home planet, B.U.D. is required to grow the star plant until it blooms and harvest its seeds. What’s unique is that instead of typical left to right platforming, you will be progressing vertically. I have a feeling the developers were hiding some sort of subtle inference, but as I rode my ever growing beanstalk straight up until it spat out its seeds to carry on its long lineage of robot beanstalk hybrids, I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Probably because once again, I’d lost my grip and tumbled thousands of miles to my death. Ah, that must be it- it’s a subtle innuendo to the futility of robot life; it’s simply doomed to come crashing down. That, or it was the result of a prominent glitch wherein you lose the ability to climb with your right hand- rather unfortunate considering it’s a game about climbing. It can be fixed at random by resetting the game over and over, but it definitely soured my enjoyment of the game. Personally, I never felt I needed both hands to erect a beanstalk, but I’m also not a robot.
You view and control B.U.D.’s awkward movements in third person while controlling his arms individually with your left and right triggers, though you will notice that the robots movements are not fully responsive to you and this is done by design. It is the only “intentional” feature that gives this game any semblance of a challenge. This design choice is meant to be charming because Gone Home clearly portrays that B.U.D. is a child who is learning. Did I find it charming? Not so much. What it does do, is give this rock climbing game some great moments. Free falling from over 1000 metres after slightly overstepping your target was pure joy as you do have options to survive… or many obstacles to crash into and become dismantled, it’s your choice! The game is fairly forgiving when you make mistakes as you will be transferred back to your most recently opened teleporter. If you’re like me and you skip these teleporter checkpoints, you’ll certainly have a long way to get back to where you were. Learn from my mistakes and always aim for the flashing red light in the sky!
Graphically Gone Home takes you to a very nostalgic place if you were a part of the Nintendo 64 3D polygon era. Everything is very vibrant and looks to be solid. I rarely noticed any clipping or gaps throughout my play and I never got stuck. That is a big win for me as there is a lot of potential to have your game ruined if those things happen.
Now, I don’t intend to gloss over the fact that I said this game only takes three hours to beat… it actually only takes two if you concentrate solely on your main objective. If you were to do everything such as collect the 100 crystals that power up B.U.D. or scan every plant available, then you’re looking closer to the 12 to 15 hour mark. You are more than likely to stop playing when you win though because once the plant blooms its seed and the satisfaction of completion wears off you’ll start to realize this game comes with more frustration than it does replayability.
Gone Home won’t be enjoyed by all but it does have potential to have a fairly large audience because it is still a fun and unique experience despite its shortcomings. I get the impression that any rock climbers who play this game will be in a wet dream fantasy because the ability to be able to build incredible courses up to space with minimal limitation is fantastic. Answer this question and you’ll know whether this game is for you: Do you have any interest in becoming a superstar rock climbing botanist robot who constantly suffers from leg muscle dystrophy?