On of Eyezmaze is back! The man behind the Grow series, one of the most beloved staples of free play on the Web since the invention of Flash, has just come out with a new game, Grow Island. The game takes the 'pick objects in order and watch the world grow' dynamic of his previous Grow titles and applies it to a university curriculum. Instead of picking a ball, or a treasure, as your selection of items, you pick Civil Engineering, Applied Chemistry, Architecture, and in the process of prioritizing these fields of knowledge endeavor to create a perfect utopia.
This is without a doubt On's greatest work-to-date, and in it he embodies an optimistic philosophy. Following the correct order of things will lead to a society where men and women get along happily, the environment is protected and technology is harnessed to discover the secrets of the universe. In order to get there though, you have to try and fail to find that correct order, witnessing petty tragedies of rejection, deforestation, volcanic disaster and broken beakers. Success means uncovering an increasingly delightful series of animations and evolutions, like peeling back layers from an onion, if the onion had an everlasting gobstopper at its core. There's even a wink to Japan's love of humanoid-robot-samurai action—it's glorious.
Analysis: The gameplay of the Grow series is basically about deductive puzzle-solving, the rewards come in unearthing the underlying logic behind the correct sequence and in the animated flowering that accompanies this process. Grow Island streamlines this gameplay by adding descriptive hints to the names of the objects, its alluded to that Chemistry will lead to fuel cells, and that mechanical engineering enables the construction of civil structures. Grow RPG was the first move in this direction, where your sense of RPG logic (if you're such a hardcore fan) guided you through. Island brings this sort of allusive logic to the realm of general human knowledge, and it is perhaps a happy coincidence that On, being commissioned by a University, would lead to a refinement of this design pattern. Sometimes, however, it backfires, or maybe just reinforces a casual, rather than synchronistic, interpretation; for example you might think that Chemistry would be necessary to spur chemistry between the man and woman, a synchronic, poetic way of thinking about it, it turns out this isn't the case.
Overall, this game is nearly perfect, a love letter to the Internet-faring human race, a paper crane with poetry written all over its folded insides.
Still want more Grow? Play the entire Grow series of games (in order of release)...