Why I Love: Grow Home's frequent flying

If you've ever dreamt about flying, what was it like? It's rare that my sleeping subconscious unwinds itself by letting me soar through imaginary skies, but for the few times it's happened, I never felt like Superman. Instead of gracefully gliding through the air, it was as if I was falling horizontally, struggling to properly guide myself amongst the clouds. But it's always peaceful, a surreal thrill without any looming sense of danger; even if I couldn't always glide at the precise angle I wanted, I could simply enjoy the sensation of flight. That blissful feeling is now something I've experienced in my waking life, courtesy of the adorable 3D platformer Grow Home.

A single viewing of the above trailer - though I recommend multiple - should give you a sense of just how cheery, playful, and charming Grow Home's beanstalk-climbing adventure can be. As the adorable robot BUD (short for Botanical Utility Droid), you're on an interstellar mission to retrieve a Star Seed, which could be beamed back home for precious terraforming purposes. Easier said than done, as the Star Plant will only bear fruit once it's sprouted to a stratosphere-kissing height of 2000 meters. But BUD was clearly programmed without a pessimism subroutine, because he simply starts climbing up the giant vine, one claw-like hand at a time, to help the Star Plant's tendrils find their way to growth-inducing sustenance.

As you continue your ascent up this gargantuan vegetation, you'll come across bright blue crystals embedded in nearby rock formations (most of which are suspended in mid-air). Snagging one will increase BUD's battery levels - and though you're not forced to collect them all, doing so unlocks something magical. Claiming enough crystals will eventually net you a booster backpack, adding some much-needed lift to BUD's hops so you can more easily bound around the Star Plant's twisted branches and any floating landmasses. The more crystals you collect, the more efficient your boost becomes. Both of these processes can be augmented with some Uplay-connected unlocks, which are absolutely worth making an account for no matter how silly you think the service is (very, in my case).

Coming to grips with your increasingly powerful thrusters is a joy. BUD moves with a delightful clumsiness - the kind you might expect from a metallic baby who's just grasped the concept of motor skills. And when he takes to the air, happily chirping all the while, that same awkwardness comes through in your attempts to manage your boost meter so that there's something to grab onto when you inevitably run out of thrust. Eventually, you'll encounter giant flowers and leaves that can alter your ascent; the former acts like an air brake, while the latter lets you glide around with the grace of a paper airplane. Whenever you misjudge a boost-jump's distance and plummet back to Earth, it's no biggie - BUD simply shatters into pieces, your ship's computer/guardian M.O.M. warms you to be more careful (or has a chuckle at your expense), and you're instantly restored back to robotic life.

Tracking down every last crystal requires you to slowly master the art of falling with style, doling out bits of boost to sail through the sky towards whatever climb-assisting anchorpoint you've got your eye on. And after a relaxing couple of afternoons spent seeking out all the crystals, I was delighted by the reward: unlimited flight. Yes, it effectively does away with all the airborne acrobatic skills you've developed up to that point - but it's incredibly freeing to swoop around to your heart's content, soaking in the sense of awe that comes with effortlessly gliding past a gorgeous sunset (made possible by the perfectly tuned day/night cycle).

Even before unlocking infinite boost, I was enchanted by Grow Home's sensation of sporadic aviation. It brought me back to distant memories of a PS2 demo disc containing a chunk of the mech-battling oddity RAD: Robot Alchemic Drive. In it, you play a Japanese teen holding the controls to a giant robot built to repel legions of Godzilla-sized monsters. But instead of controlling the action from a cockpit, you're locked to the perspective of your human protagonist as they gaze up at these colossal titans duking it out. To make it so that the camera controls don't completely debilitate the actual act of playing the game, your character is inexplicably given the power to boost through the air in short bursts. Must be jet-boots or something.

In an effort to extend the demo's lifespan (which is what you do when you're a kid with no disposable income to buy games), I found that you could simply ignore your objective and float around forever. By keeping the hero's date waiting at the train station, I would never trigger the impending monster attack - and that meant the freedom to flit around the rooftops of a peaceful Japanese suburb. Compared to RAD's typical gameplay, which you can catch a glimpse of above, it was such a tranquil exploration of what flying might actually be like, without the pressures of some impending doom to distract me.

That's an oddly unique gaming memory I've cherished for years. I was reminded of that wispy airborne mobility when playing as the Wing Diver in Earth Defense Force 2025, but Grow Home has finally recaptured the sensation that had me so enamored with a 2002 demo disc. BUD's short but sweet journey is currently free for PS Plus members, though the PC and PS4 versions are both well worth the price of admission. If you've ever had a dream about flying, Grow Home is a must-play.