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Botanicula (PC) artwork

Botanicula (PC) review


"It grows on you"


Botanicula (PC) image

So, what have you been playing lately?"

"Botanicula."

"Oh, I've never heard of that. What kind of game is it?"

"It's a point-and-click where you... um... there's... trees... seeds... Uh, chickens... hallucinations... I think spider monsters... An anthropomorphic peanut... Uh, something about the spiders sucking the life out of the tree, which is like a home for the... creature-plant-characters-"

"Oh, sounds cool, I guess..."

"I'm so not doing this game any justice."

Botanicula is not a good conversation starter if you're socially awkward, like me. This graphic adventure revolves around a quintet of sentient, botanical beings who attempt to take back their home, a massive tree, from a swarm of spider-like parasites. You accomplish this by observing the game's peculiar environment, clicking on various objects and hoping that you're doing it all in the correct sequence.

I know that last sentence sounds dry and technical, but that's the best way I can describe the game without going into graphic, sanity-destroying detail. You see, Botanicula is a weird title with strange objectives. For instance, one segment requires you to search a village and recover fourteen chicken-like birds. You need these avians because a seed-person requires them to activate the village's transport system, which includes fourteen hamster wheels for the fowl to run on that harvest their kinetic energy and use it to propel the entire burg into the sky. In order to nab all of the birds, you have to engage in some rather odd scenes, including one where you click on various bulbs to make a meditating plant-man hallucinate. You can then snatch a fowl out of the resultant trip, which is displayed above the meditator. Afterward, you'll need to procure a hen trapped in an overstuffed igloo, create another by blowing on a certain combination of wall-mounted trumpets that generate new life forms, plus hatch one from an egg by taking it to a Frankenstein-ish laboratory.

Botanicula (PC) image

There is no shortage of creativity here, though some might feel that the strange and sometimes eerie phenomena you bump into come off as "weird for weird's sake." Honestly, I have no problem with that. I appreciate all things peculiar, and the game is more than willing to pay strangeness in spades.

Unfortunately, there is one drawback to the weirdness. Graphic adventures benefit from logic-based puzzles, and Botanicula's world isn't exactly conducive to rational challenges. For example, going back to the chickens, there's one stuck on a ledge with a coin slot below it. In order to capture this feathered freak, you have to locate the aforementioned igloo and continuously click on it until myriad penguins fall out of it. After that, a coin should eventually materialize. You can then place the cash in the appropriate slot to start an indoor rainstorm that floods the building, granting you access to the bird. It's basically an interactive "your argument is invalid" joke.

Some of the puzzles in prior stages are even worse than this, as they might require you to click on random objects multiple times before finishing the area. Call me crazy, but wouldn't featuring so many trial by error riddles defeat the purpose of having puzzles in the first place? In rare occasions, the game feels minimally interactive because of this. It's as though the developers sought to contrive tasks for you to initiate in an effort to veil the notion that you're watching the game more than playing it. Thankfully, these are rare instances.

Botanicula (PC) image

The good news is that not all of the puzzles you encounter are obtuse, as the latter half of the campaign sports some thought-provoking problems that make up for the vague ones. One of my favorites involved winning a racing mini-game, which causes your opponent to repeatedly hop. During that time, you must activate a wall-mounted item and knock your rival's helmet off, so you can give it to another character who wants it.

There also isn't a stilted, drawn out sob story attached to the character's demands involving his missing helmet. Heck, most of the game's plot unfolds through implications or short, dialogue-free cutscenes, which is both troubling and relieving. Personally, I prefer my point-and-clicks to sport at least a decent storyline. Graphic adventures have, practically since their inception, taken players down some wild avenues and through wonderful tales in the past. Although Botanicula attempts to spin a yarn that anyone of any language can comprehend, which is commendable, it is at times so muddled and unspecific that you don't get to know the protagonists. Because of that, it's difficult to empathize with them at times, and some of the characters seem to be present for "flavor" rather than as a means of invigorating the narrative.

Botanicula (PC) image

Still, it's nice to play through a quest that doesn't take itself too seriously. You won't see many time-wasting cutscenes, as if this tale is trying to be a movie. At times you might think it's going to get all artsy-fartsy on you, but then an NPC burps or something humorous occurs and you remember, "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to have fun!" I can dig a so-called "art game" that's willing to shed its pretenses and just be goofy when the need arises. On that end, Botanicula is seldom off cue.

Ultimately, this is a solid but not amazing title. With a little more meat to the narrative and some improved logic puzzles, it could have been excellent. Take nothing away from the developers, though. They dared to dream and concocted a lighthearted yet strange setting with a charming, microscopic supporting cast. Perhaps the game doesn't tell an elaborate story, but it makes up for it with decent brain-bending material and the occasional goofy segment.

3.5/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (March 03, 2019)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Feedback

If you enjoyed this Botanicula review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Ogreatgames posted March 08, 2019:

I bet Botanicula would make an excellent Switch port.

I really hope that Amanita Design would do so.

This point-and-click's music is nothing short of stunning.

The gameplay is as awesome as its visuals.

If there was an award for 2012's Indie Game of the Year, Botanicula would have won it.

Many thanks for the fantastic review of a fantastic game!
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hastypixels posted March 15, 2019:

Botanicula, like its name, is something of a hard sell for the majority of players. It's strange ... and so help me that is in part because of its European design sensibilities, which is by means a bad thing. However it does blur the accessibility line by a fair measure.

I mean at least the industry is open to such strangeness, and that's a good thing?
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JoeTheDestroyer posted March 17, 2019:

Thank you both for reading!

Ogreat:
I can see this game working on Switch, or any platform with a touch screen, really. It's already available in mobile markets, so why not?

Hasty:
This game is such a tough egg to crack. I had a hell of a time writing this review both previously for RoG and now. It's very much a "this is good, but also not good, but mainly good, but kinda eh..." type a title.

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