Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux, iPad
Release Date: April 19th, 2012
Developer: Amanita Design
Publisher: Amanita Design
Botanicula is a point-and-click adventure game focusing on five young plants and their quest to plant a seed of light at the base of the tree they grew up on. Large spider-like parasites have infested their tree, and they have to avoid the horrors on their journey down. The game is targeted towards younger or casual players, and it’s not difficult to play through in one sitting. Some puzzles have multiple solutions and there are plenty of easter eggs to collect in each scene. There is no dialogue in the game at all, making it easily accessible, even if you don’t know French or English.
The gameplay of Botanicula never gets tedious, although when the answer isn’t apparent, you can run around searching for it for a long time. You learn very early on that you can click and interact with almost everything, and death isn’t an issue until very late in the game. This makes the game a very exploratory process, perfect for filling up a few minutes of downtime wherever you might find yourself playing. There are a few optional minigames that are easy to pass up, and even creatures that aren’t related to the plot can still give you a collectable card showing them at their finest.
The graphics in this game are all lovingly crafted, and the style is definitely unique. I had a feeling very early on that this game was meant to be played under the influence (though I never tested that). My favorite scenes were the ones that involved storytelling: by clicking on a mushroom hanging from the ceiling, it would wake up and tell a story through a short animation. The art during those animations is probably some of the best in the game. I wouldn’t call the graphics ground-breaking, but they at least give the game a unique character and add to the experience.
The music and sound design in the game are very good, although regrettably there are very few sound tracks that play during the game. While the track that plays each time you accomplish a riddle is very light-hearted and encouraging, it’s the only immediately recognizable track. The sound design makes up for the lack of music, and the delightful buzzing of the different insect-like plants keep the ears entertained and says a lot about the nature of the surroundings.
The plant designs are all varied and impressive, and the sheer number of different creatures will keep players’ eyes trained for new life forms. Collecting the cards requires more than just finding the creatures, and you’ll end up helping or tricking them along the way to plant the seed. The ending can be especially ominous and challenging, since it introduces a shooting element out of nowhere and has a few puzzles that even walkthroughs can’t help you solve.
I wouldn’t recommend the game to just anyone, but if you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, it’s worth a try. The game isn’t presented as a challenge—it’s more of a story that unfolds bit by bit. Despite clearly being botanical in origin, each creature acts and move as if it was living, and that tactic can give you a new appreciation for nature—and plant life in particular.