Not all games need graphics that make you question whether you're actually watching a movie, or hundreds of hours of story quests, or complicated twisting narratives that keep you guessing till the end. There's more than one way to give the player a beautiful experience. Any and all of these elements can be great at creating unique interactive experiences, but Grow Up manages quite well without them.
Although it all kicks off with a rather hectic round of tic-tac-toe between B.U.D. and M.O.M., and even a violent crash caused by a meteor storm, the game's quirky humour and tranquil atmosphere is present from the very start. The unique personality quickly draws us right back into the universe and lets us know that we're once again on an adventure with the characterful red robot, B.U.D.
But this time we are missing an important character - M.O.M. After the crash caused by the aforementioned meteor storm, B.U.D.'s spaceship and thus onboard computer M.O.M. are destroyed. When we wake up again after the crash, we're on a foreign planet and all alone. As the title reveals, it's time for B.U.D. to grow up so he can save the day. It's up to him to find a way back home for all their sakes. The ship has been broken into many pieces and scattered far and wide across this alien planet, and with the help of his friend Pod they must now reassemble their ride so they can return home.
But although this story may sound a little more serious than the one we found in its predecessor, the colourful and beautiful universe (and B.U.D. himself) is still imbued with an almost childlike sense of joy, just as we remember it from the original. The planet he is on is like a large, open playground, which only grows as B.U.D. gets stronger along the way. There are no enemies out to get you. Actually the only thing that threatens to put an end to your otherwise worry free state of being are the accidents you sometimes endure after a long free fall - either a crushing, sudden encounter with the ground or an unfortunate swim in the sea. But the lack of enemies only contributes to the peaceful, quiet and carefree atmosphere that fills the game. Even the endearing way our dear robot moves and walks makes him look like a child that's just learning to walk (or a very drunk adult, depending how you look at it).
Back to the mission at hand: for B.U.D. to be able to return home again he must gather all of the pieces of the spaceship and put it all back together. They're not only spread across the entire planet, but they're also high up on small, flying chunks of land that can be found all the way out among the stars. Thus we definitely had to face down our fear of heights in order to gather all the parts we needed.
At the beginning of the game we were quite nervous that it would quickly become monotonous. Climbing both plants and mountains might get tedious and time consuming, and the ultra-simple tasks and challenges seemed like they might quickly get boring. But fortunately this wasn't the case. Just like the first time you started up Journey, you have to get used to and accept the premise and tone. Jumping from an action-packed first-person shooter and into a game like Grow Up means you need to change gears before you can really enjoy the experience. And this is exactly what happened here.
The simple tasks fit the setting and everything ends up feeling very natural. And when it comes to the slow, long climbing trips, then B.U.D.'s abilities (which you unlock along the way) quickly cured of us any lethargy. With a jetpack you can almost fly the whole way up, there's parachute to help out a clumsy robot when required, and there's a glider that offers some completely breathtaking moments. Once again crystals are scattered throughout the landscape, and these make your skills more potent.
Grow Up is capable of something quite magnificent; although it really is quite simple in appearance and in terms of gameplay, it still offers an experience that pulls on your emotions. When you slowly and precariously climb your way along a small flying island that you have finally reached at an altitude of several kilometres in order to gather another crystal, each small mistake might be fatal. The planet beneath you suddenly seems small, and one misplaced grip will mean your rapid descent. Ultimately the only things likely to happen are that you might land on one of the other small flying islands beneath, or the worst case scenario is that you'll meet the unforgiving surface and then show up in a transporter. Nevertheless, we caught ourselves sitting on the edge of our seat, concentration etched on our face, only to sigh with relief upon completion of the task at hand, able to enjoy the fabulous view on the way down along with the feeling of freedom which is in complete contrast to what you felt going up. On the way down, time feels like it stands still and one's state is almost meditative.
Despite the fact that you actually have a whole planet to explore, this isn't a long game. You'll probably be able to complete it in just a few hours, but we didn't want to do that. Before we knew it, we'd collected almost all of the parts of the wreckage, but instead of hurrying over to put them together and get off the planet, we wanted to linger a little longer, find the remaining crystals, complete the last challenges, and just enjoy experience some more before leaving.
It's not an entirely positive ascent, however. Jetpack or not, there are still times when the climbing sections are incredibly long. Then there are some annoying camera angles that made it very difficult to, for example, spot the crystals that you know are nearby but can't seem to find. Also, the map is needlessly difficult to navigate at times. On top of all that this is probably a game that won't suit everyone's taste. All minor issues in the grand scheme of things, though.
Grow Up follows in its predecessor's footsteps. The games both share a playful personality that makes them a pleasure to spend time with. The game isn't long, deep, serious or even action-packed, but it continues to offer a unique and whimsical experience filled with excitement and sometimes even an almost meditative sense of calm. It's an adventure which in many ways feels childish and innocent (in a good way). The adorable humour, the simple gameplay and endearing red robot you are exploring with are all contributing factors that make this another great adventure.