If there is one thing I like, it’s a twee game that doesn’t demand much of me and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but on the flip side, if things get a little too twee then I can be filled with an ironic rage. With this love/hate relationship in mind I was issued the task of reviewing Grow: Song of the Evertree. An open world, world crafting game. Grow puts you in control of a lone alchemist with the goal of recovering the named Evertree from some creepy purple brambles that everyone around keeps calling “The Withering”. You’re not totally alone in this task however as you have friends in the form of a talking book and cauldron and your rideable winged beastie.
Right off the bat things seemed a little too close to adorable for my tastes as I crafted my playable hero. While this is one of the more open character creators I’ve seen of late with plenty of choices in looks and even gender neutral options (always a positive thing in gaming) I noted that most of these appearances looked, well, off? When I finished making what I deemed to be close enough to myself I was left staring at a baby faced but bearded abomination. Sure, I had the options to make whatever face I wanted but the games cutesy art style lends itself to making your protagonist as cute as possible too. So, I scrapped my first draft of a hero and made one a little more in keeping with the aesthetic.
As soon as I was done admiring my creation I was dropped into the adventure as my book and jug chums let me know that a “world seed” was ready and I had to fly up the tree a ways to plant it. Plants on plants, right?! Anyway, once there I did what I had to then had a nice time tidying up my newly created space using assorted tools to keep The Withering at bay. This is the sort of busy work that my brain feeds on, and it’s the same sort of thing that made Fallout 4 so special to me, just give me a space and let me weave my own path and figure out my own story. Unfortunately it didn’t last too long as I was force fed some more gameplay mechanics and story soon after.
That seems to be a lot of what Grow is: Bouts of finding your own fun and exploring the worlds you create, followed by your book and cauldron telling you some more about the universe, and why it’s so important that you stop just sticking new kinds of wallpaper in the master bedroom of your new cabin and get back to saving the god damn Evertree already. Luckily then I was railroaded into what makes Grow a little more unique. Essences!
Basically, everything you find in the world can be converted into goopy piles of essence thanks to the cauldron you talk to out of sheer loneliness. You’ll end up with one of 24 options each given charming adjectives like Abundant, Warm, Icy and my personal favourite – Sticky! Mixing up 5 of these newly formed essences will grant you a new world seed to plant and the results can be absolutely nuts, from deserts full of what looked like roman ruins to a world entirely made of pink ice, I created some strange new biomes for myself, and I couldn’t stop… All of these new worlds were helped along by this game looking absolutely gorgeous in a very cartoony kind of way with lighting being a major player in its good looks, much like your favourite Instagram model.
If you’re looking for an experience to take you away from the world’s woes for a little while, this is probably it. Grow: Song of the Evertree is beautiful, charming, and only occasionally spoiled by lengthy dialogue sections, so even if you choose to ignore these moments like I did, you’re in for a fantastic time of creation and curation.