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When games get collectibles right

I can’t remember the point at which I received the new crystal-tracking device in Grow Up, but I can remember what I thought when I did. I thought: Well, I won’t be using that. Tracking down the glowing chunks of crystal scattered around the landscape had been one of the great joys of Grow Home, a game which is hardly short on greatness or joy in the first place. You’d rove about the compact 3D playground, and you’d see something glinting. You’d move in close and a tingling sound would rise up over the soundtrack. There it is! Swooping in, or clambering up over rocks to reach the glowing trinket, you’d then have to grab it and yank it out of the earth. It was a bit like pulling a tooth, except it felt brilliant. The crystals unlocked stuff as you collected them, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there were a certain number of them and you were going to find them all!

So a tracking device to make that easier? I wasn’t on board with that. And then I played Grow Up, loved every minute, and moved onto other things. Only yesterday did I remember that I had left several crystals unfound. So today I went back in.

And it turns out I love the crystal tracker. It’s a brilliant piece of design, in fact, implemented with the kind of care and intelligence that you see everywhere else in this oddball game world. Grow Up is pretty much a straight sequel to Grow Home, in that you do the same kinds of thing, but there’s just more of it all. You’re still a robot climbing over low-poly rocks and scaling creepers that reach high into the sky, but the world is so much bigger, a huge sphere filled with different continents and mountain ranges, and there are new power ups and new traversal options as you head for the moon.

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