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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Grow Up.

Transcript Edit

Grow Up, is a phrase I seem to hear an awful lot when talking about my job in mixed company, and it is also the name of a sequel to Grow Home, the Ubisoft physics platformer. I say 'physics platformer', the game itself would probably say "Hey, there's platforms and you can physic around them if that's your bag, but if you just want to chill, that's cool too." Grow Up, I had to put up with enough of this chillout shit from No Man's Sky, give me a fucking challenge or I'll physics you. "Oh fine. Find the 150 collectibles." That'll do. I will "chill" after the game has worked my testicles until they're six foot across and the colour of an angry plum, not before, and even then the chilling shall entail beating them back into shape with two fistfuls of ice chips. 

The premise of the two Grow Preposition games is that you play a small robot named Bud that can jump and grab things and whose animation is somewhat procedurally generated by the physics engine, which has the usual result that our little robot friend seems to be suffering from the kind of Parkinson's Disease that only affects the bottom half. Bud is supervised by a spaceship computer called Mom, and his objective in both games is to climb back inside Mom's welcoming red orifice by directing one or more swelling organic phalluses towards it. 

It's actually rather clever what they've done with the titles. Not the Grow-Go pun in Grow Home, Christ no, that's the play on words equivalent of wearing Comic Sans on a T-shirt. Grow Home was about the childlike desire to return to mother after a long day rolling around in dirt molesting small animals and shelter beneath the warm familiar glow she gets when she's been drinking red wine since noon. Grow Up, contrarily, is about having to mature and learn self-reliance when our mother unexpectedly explodes and her pieces are scattered across the back yard. Yeah, I've been there, Grow Up. That was a weird conversation with the gardeners. 

Grow Home was centred around cultivating a single giant plant to reach the ultimate goal and exploring exciting new terrain and floating rocks as they became accessible, in Grow Up the growing of the multiple giant plants is more an incidental part of the quest for more jetpack upgrades. Which does mean Grow Home was quite a bit tighter. Phwoar, it's getting more Freudian by the minute in here, isn't it, someone start getting the ice chips together. 

In Grow Home you can get to the top of your flower tower, look down and there's everything you need to worry about right there, but Grow Up takes place on a Mario Galaxy style tiny planet surrounded by more floating stones than a Keith Richards ketamin party. Points on for freedom of movement and exploration and points off for figuring out where the fuck I'm going. I look at nondescript floating rock number 731-Gamma and after consulting my extensive paperwork realise I haven't looked it over yet, but as I'm heading towards it I get momentarily distracted by a farting wasp and when I look back I've forgotten which of the cluster of seventeen identical floating rocks was the one I was heading for. We fall back on using the map and objective markers, and that's when we realise what Ubisoft have done - they've turned it into a Ubisoft game. Which is to say, a sandbox cluttered with repetitive mini-challenges with all the joy of exploration and discovery one gets from spending six hours staring at a plate of overcooked pasta, so all you can do is go back to the map screen every five minutes, stick an objective marker on the icon of a thing you want and make a beeline for the massive glowing indicator like a greyhound focused squarely on the rusty bumhole of an artificial rabbit. 

Well, it's not that bad. You have a jetpack, so it at least kicks shit like The Division into a roadside ditch and bangs its frumpy wife. It's just that the jetpack comes on a bit too strong for my liking. You know how it is, you're out on the town, there's an ageing jetpack sitting at the bar wearing too much makeup, saying "Why don't you buy me a drink, sugar, I make climbing completely trivial after only a couple of upgrades. Come on, I'll call my girl friends infinite glider and infinite parachute and we can have a great big saucy party." Then it starts trying to put its arm through yours and you have to scrape it off on the side of a moving subway train. The Grow Home jetpack was a coy little thing that could just about simulate a medium to severe bout of vindaloo flatulence and the parachute and glider were both temporary pickups, but even as the retarded shark of modernity bites the last few mouthfuls from my raft I will still cling stubbornly to my central mast, which states that video games have to be some kind of game. As in a challenge, rather than Ubisoft's current idea of a game, which is five hundred trivial button pushing instruction following exercises scattered randomly across a map like cigarette butts on the pavement outside an appeals court. 

Grow Home had a nasty habit of gluing half the collectible crystals to the underside of floating continents so you'd have to carefully monkey bar your way to them and the climbing controls apparently recently suffered a death in the family and just can't keep their mind on the job. Is my left hand clinging securely, climbing controls? "What? Yeah, whatever, you're fine." Release, plummet. "Oh, you meant clinging to the rock? Sorry, I thought you meant clinging to a sense of purpose in life." But in other words, it was a challenge, and to my mind struggling against the engine is half the fun of a physics game, the mere act of walking Bud across slightly unlevel ground has the inherent skill challenge of trying to get home after a martini tasting. Freely jetpacking and gliding everywhere might make for some lovely screenshots but when I'm beating every race challenge first try with thirty seconds to spare then calling them challenges risks action from the advertising standards authority. 

And incidentally, were race challenges really the only thing you could come up with for sidequests? In sandbox design that's fucking level zero, that's the free ink cartridge that comes with the printer and holds about as much as your grandma's bladder on a long car journey. I like the balance between zen fuckabouts freedom and actual skill progress that is struck by Grow Home and I'd say the first half of Grow Up. Grow Up gives you the ability to recreate any special plant you find, like the ones that will launch you high into the sky if you can persuade the physics engine to let you sit on it without breakdancing right the fuck off it again, that's for progress, or you can build a fortress of giant cacti that don't do anything except look vaguely like bellends, that's the fuckabouts part. But the plants become obsolete once you get up to a certain tech level, who needs to get jizzed into the air when my jetpack can do the same without needing to be excited to orgasm by my frantically jiggling leg. 

Perhaps there's a hidden meaning, here. In Grow Home the temporary parachutes and gliders were plants as well, but in Grow Up they're permanent extensions of your cold, emotionless robotic frame. Doesn't take Northrop Frye to find the subtext there. Collaboration between technology and nature is an inherently temporary arrangement? Now we know why we're a robot alone on a spaceship. What remains of the human crew is probably minced up inside the gas tank.

Addenda Edit

  • The boy who never grew up: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Now feel free to blow me out of the water but I slightly suspect there may possibly have been some Freudian themes at work here
  • Possibly the best gardening simulator since Hover Bovver
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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