Reviews// Botanicula

Posted 2 Mar 2013 10:00 by
Somewhere in the world there's a warm bath. It's probably in the open air, thanks to the sort of funky architecture people like to put on tumblr and a roll-back roof. From the bath you can hear the lapping of the ocean and a warm breeze rustling palm leaves. There are fireflies lazily doing their thing above it, and maybe a few candles and lanterns dotted around it. This bath is the inspiration for Botanicula.

The game's a wonderful little indie gem from Amanita Design, the people who brought us the much-lauded Machinarium. So, that it's good won't surprise a lot of people.

Like Machinarium, Botanicula is a point and click adventure. I've actually just had to check the blurb to confirm my vague idea of what it's about. It turns out that I more or less had it down, because the details are minimal to start with. You control a group of tiny tree-dwellers out to save their beautiful, ancient home from a parasite by travelling into the earth to plant a seed. That, really, is it. There's no dialogue. No on-screen text. There are some bits that you might call cutscenes, but they have as much in common with hieroglyphics as they do with a traditional cutscene.

So, no, plot is most certainly not the driving force behind Botanicula. And, honestly, gameplay mechanics take a back seat to exploring the tree our tiny heroes call home.

It's a lush, vibrant world, that looks sort of like you might expect Avatar's Pandora to look if you stuck it under a microscope. The delicate, luminous place is a pleasure to wander around, populated by odd little creatures packed with character.

It's unfortunate that the display won't fill a larger monitor, but it's not the end of the world. It still looks great.

The sound complements the visuals well, with a soothing, ambient electronic soundtrack. Non-linguistic mumblings that sound vaguely reminiscent of early Mighty Boosh characters have been given to the game's population, and the effect is a sort of nonsensical friendliness.

The puzzles that keep you actually doing something work well enough, for the most part. Often, they really just serve to keep you moving through the world.

Occasionally they're frustratingly counter-intuitive, though. You'll probably find yourself just clicking round the screen at random looking for something to interact with more than once, and sometimes you'll feel like your discovery that a particular object works with a particular screen is entirely arbitrary.

Once or twice I clicked my way around an area, concluded it didn't have anything to offer me and abandoned it, only to come back later and find that, despite my not having done anything differently, an item was now up for grabs.

Still, this is really a minor gripe.

Pulling back a little, it feels more useful to compare Botanicula to something like flOw or Everyday Shooter than it does to Monkey Island or Deponia. It's really about immersing yourself in what's happening on the screen and taking a while to float peacefully in it. It's a great game, full of warmth, character and light.

Pros:
+ Lush, beautiful game world.
+ Very complementary soundtrack.
+ Oodles of personality.

Cons:
- Puzzles can have arbitrary, counter-intuitive solutions.

SPOnG Score: 9/10

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