This charming life sim allows you to grow your very own worlds.
One game that we have been eagerly anticipating since we previewed it last month is Grow: Song of the Evertree. This cartoonish life sim enables players to grow their own worlds using materials that they have gathered across their adventure. Grow is out now on a variety of platforms, and we were recently able to secure review access on PC.
Instead of moving to a village or taking over your grandfather's farm, Grow sees you play as the world's last beacon of hope. Here a life-giving plant known as the Evertree has started to wither away and lose the ability to grow fantastical worlds on its branches. Being one of the last remaining Everheart Alchemists, it's up to you to fulfil your ancestral duties and bring life back to the decaying plant. With its lack of voice acting and simplistic plot, the story here isn't going to blow you away, but it was refreshing to see a life sim with a different angle.
With your working to restore the titular tree, the bulk of your time is spent tending to the gardens sprouting on its many branches. During these gardening sections, you'll rotate between a selection of tools to plant seeds, pull weeds, and smash up bits of debris. It sure sounds tedious (and it often is), but what helps matters is that these worlds expand and grow every time you revisit. When returning to areas, you'll encounter new furry creatures to befriend and caves to explore, so the repetition never feels too mind-numbing.
These gardening elements get really interesting, though, when you unlock the ability to craft your very own worlds. When creating a world seed, you'll need to combine essences that you've collected and these have an impact on the weather conditions, plant life, and creatures. These essences all have their own characteristics (cute, hot, icy, and bitter) and you can choose how much of each you want to blend together. Stepping out into a world you've just created really makes you feel like a god, and it was fun just to experiment.
Along with maintaining these worlds, you'll also have to care for a small community at the base of the Evertree. Each day new characters will stumble into your town, and you can decide to either build them a new home or recruit them within one of your local businesses. Each character comes with their own stat profile, and some will prove more effective at certain jobs than others. Ensuring your villagers are happy is essential, and this can be achieved by completing quests and expanding upon the facilities that you have available.
Watching your town expand from a barren stretch of land to a little bustling community is deeply satisfying, and I found its building controls to be accessible. You can bring the build controls up by pushing T (on PC) at any point, and there are no restrictions on relocating any homes or businesses that you've already placed. The town building and gardening sections are also intelligently linked together, as you'll need to harvest certain essences to construct some buildings. This means that you'll have to experiment growing and exploring new worlds until you've gathered what's needed.
Something else that gives you a great sense of accomplishment is that Grow constantly rewards the player, so even the most mundane of days feel worthwhile. You carry around with you a journal and this includes objectives across a variety of categories such as world, community, and alchemy. Whether you decide to invest more time in caring for your gardens or developing your community, you'll constantly be rewarded with brand-new unlocks. Along with cosmetics, these also include meaningful upgrades like being able to use your watering can faster and gather materials from a further distance.
When it comes to the presentation, I found myself feeling pretty torn. The visuals are charming and cartoonish, but objects would constantly pop in when walking around, even when playing on PC at max settings. With many soothing minimalist piano melodies, the soundtrack arranged by composer Kevin Penkin was also a real treat, but I found it to be lacking in variety. The same couple of tracks would just play again and again and this made repetitive tasks like gardening feel even more tiresome.
If you're looking for a relaxing experience to melt away the hours over the Christmas period then Grow: Song of the Evertree would be a solid choice. It ticks all of the boxes of an excellent life sim, as it features a wealth of customisation options and its gameplay is simplistic and constantly rewarding. Whilst it gets my recommendation, I do have to warn though that it can feel tedious at times and its presentation can be hit and miss. Still, you'd struggle to find a life sim this unique and charming outside of New Horizons.
7 / 10
You can create your own worlds. There's a constant sense of achievement. Town building aspects are really accessible.
The soundtrack is repetitive. Gardening can be tedious.