Grow Home is my favourite game of the year. With a beautiful polygonal art-style, bright colours, and fabulous climbing mechanics, it’s admittedly simple, but perfect.
And yet the PlayStation 4 port, which was just released today for free through PlayStation Plus, runs like crap on the console. But more on that a little later.
As the game’s name suggests, Grow Home sees you grow a plant into the heavens.The bigger your plant grows, the further you get to home, a.k.a M.O.M. Though I won’t spoil what that all means.
To grow the plant you act as a little robot named B.U.D, who needs to climb up the main plant, all the way to the top, while directing offshoots of the plant into floating, glowing rocks. Your left and right triggers control each hands grab, while your left analog stick moves B.U.Ds arms into position. One false move too and you’ll come toppling down the plant, all the way to your death. It all makes for some edge-of-your-seat gameplay. However the gameplay always feels fair and super tight, whether you’re handing off a mountain or just a leaf.
As you grow further you’ll find new platforms, with animals and more secrets to discover. Scattered throughout the landscape you’ll also need to collect 100 crystals, with a Banjo-Kazooie-esque quest to find them all, unlocking new gameplay mechanics, like more camera controls, and a sweet jet-pack.
Crystal-collection also requires a lot of focus, especially on sound. Sometimes you’ll just be climbing around when you’ll hear the chimes of a crystal floating through the breeze. And right until the end there’s this crazy feeling of satisfaction if you can find them all.
All in all if you could describe Grow Home in one word it would be scale. The game, while essentially small, feels surprisingly dense as you climb. There are checkpoints, but this scale means a fall can still be a little disheartening until you dust yourself off and try again.
Grow Home is relaxing too. Sometimes at the end of a long day I’d just come home and play the PC version for an hour or two, if just to exist in the beautiful, fun little world. It’s almost like Fez but in 3D, with the same focus on tight mechanics, sound, and real escapism and immersion.
There are some serious issues to be found in the PS4 port of Grow Home though. The further you progress through the game, the more the game chugs, and the more the screen tears. I’m almost up to the final stage right now and the game has seemingly started to rest on an incredibly low sub-20 frames-per-second, if not less. Essentially this means the game lacks the fluidity of the PC version, even if it’s still playable (just!).
I wouldn’t say this performance hurdle is unexpected. Despite the simple art-style, Grow Home makes great use of the PC platform, with huge draw-distances, and bright, beautiful visuals. Yet even on my stock-standard Macbook the game ran better than this. Today’s release wouldn’t be the first time the game’s publisher, Ubisoft, have released something undercooked either. Games like Assassins Creed: Unity, and even Tetris Ultimate, have similarly run poorly on the PlayStation 4 and other “next-gen” consoles. However, as a huge fan of Grow Home, this is certainely the most disappointing instance of a crappy port yet.
If you already have PlayStation Plus feel free to give the game a go for free. It still runs, and it’s still fun, but the framerate is super distracting. Personally I’ll be sticking with the PC version, which I’ll reiterate as my game of the year.