I did a little gardening this morning. I did not want to. I retracted from it. Lots of memories! But then I thought: enough.
I went right for it and threw out all the weeds. It took about two seconds. And on the other side of those two seconds, the landscape had changed.
There are a lot of reasons to love the game, such as Grow Home, but the biggest thing is that there is a game world that I helped create. Develop the Home’s vertical playground – sandy beaches floating through boulders leading to amazing small islands, waterfalls, forests, and mountains – are beautifully designed.
It is full of mysteries. It is full of the ability to play open-ended for apparent, complete distraction, which is just about the best currency video games can trade.
But at the top, they are a vine. Grow Home is a game about how to encapsulate a plant from high in the Earth and sky, allowing the little robot you control to go back to its spaceship. You ride vines from the center of the plant, sending them to reindeer and moving through the sky towards the rocks you plug them into.
This means that you are adding to the landscape as much as it was before. You are putting your touch on it. These vines, which you keep under control, mean that you can embellish the world and create new parts of it.
Grow Home is full of this stuff. People think it’s going to be like QWOP, a game about weirdness because your little robot is powered by physics and has to climb each surface by holding and releasing both of its hands. But this is not strange. It is about the balance and increasing mastery of a happy accident.
You learn how this robot is. You learn how much his weight is, how high he can jump, how long he can fall and stay safe even when he lands.
And while you are learning that you are also learning about the landscape. You are learning about the flowers that you can easily catch that bring you back to Earth. You’re learning about the fast travel points you can unlock – it’s fantastic – by grabbing thick plastic legs of them and bending them down towards the ground.
You learn about plant life, animal life. Every island you reach, you learn about it, and you learn to locate every inch, every cage, every stone arch, every shining dod, which must be lifted from the ground like a tooth. Some undergo a simple process of grab and drop.
Final result? It is the most spectacular game played in a decade. The most generous. It also runs the most; I argue: from a bird’s eye of childhood and its inexplicable bliss, the temporary anxiety of parents, I think, a little informed.
Back in the sky, over sandy beaches and floating islands and creepers and asteroids, the spacecraft is where the robot’s computer awaits its return.
The laptop is called MOM. It is a sport that requires your children to be a part of nature while ensuring that they stay safe. Five years after its release, I have yet to play anything right.