This larger world requires more tools for BUD to effectively explore it, along with the aid of a new friend. Accompanying him this time around is POD, a satellite bot who basically acts as a top-down map of the planet. But he also takes MOM’s place as your main source of advice and hints. These are offered to you with the slightest hint of sibling rivalry that epitomise Grow Up’s warm sense of humour. POD just loves to point out that he can fly around the planet with ease, the smug little git.
While BUD may not be able to truly fly, in the right hands he is pretty aerodynamic. Many of BUD’s new techniques involve faster methods of ascent, and mitigating falls. The jetpack, a late game tool in Grow Home, is acquired almost immediately here. Within short order it is complemented by an air-brake and, eventually, a deployable glider. BUD also has the ability to collect different plant types from the world and seed them in new locations. These range from mushrooms with tall stalks for climbing, to bouncy cactuses and flowers that fire you into the air with a burst of jet-powered pollen.
In short, BUD is far more mobile than before, and while he still lumbers around like a drunken penguin on terra-firma, he is deceptively nimble while climbing and in the air. Indeed, Grow Up is not really a climbing game like Grow Home. It’s more of an open-world 3D platformer that lets you choose the route to your objectives. You can opt for the traditional approach and climb the Star Plants if you like, but you could equally use a combination of floral jet-boosts and BUD’s glider to gradually ascend the floating islands. Heck, you could just build a massive tower of mushrooms and climb that. As long as it gets you to your objective, it’s fair game.
In some ways it’s a bit of a shame that the climbing plays a lesser role in Grow Up, because Reflections have improved the system considerably. It’s now possible for BUD to swing hand over hand across cave ceilings and beneath overhangs, surfaces that he struggled with in Grow Home. The grip system is also more generous, making it possible to climb and scramble faster without worrying about falling. That being said, the broader range of movement is the right decision. Having only climbing in a game two, maybe three times as large as Grow Home would simply be too slow.
There are a few more concrete issues I encountered however. There are roughly two dozen plants (or 'Floraforms') which can be collected and replanted anywhere in the game world, but they soon reveal themselves to be minor variations on four or five plant types, which was slightly disappointing. Meanwhile, display options are very limited, and there’s no way to change the keybindings in the options menu. You are best off playing with a pad anyway, but it would still be useful to have the option to tinker with the keys.
By far the biggest problem I encountered, however, was a bug where a missing sound file would cause the game to crash within anywhere between a few minutes and a couple of hours of play. I could get around this issue by switching off the sound effects in certain areas of the world. But the thing is, I quite like hearing things. It’s probably my second-favourite sense. I’m confident this issue will be fixed quickly, but it was a pain while playing nonetheless.
Even so, I had a grand old time traversing the lovely little world Reflections has created. I’m not completely bowled over by it like I was with Grow Home, but that’s only because this time I’m familiar with how the game works. As sequels go it builds upon the foundations of the original beautifully, and it’s a far meatier chunk of game to boot. For a miniscule £6.99, Grow Up is a gently spectacular, exquisitely tactile, and wonderfully creative sci-fi adventure.