Home Tech Botany Manor Review: A Peaceful Period Drama of a Puzzle Game

Botany Manor Review: A Peaceful Period Drama of a Puzzle Game

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Botany Manor Review: A Peaceful Period Drama of a Puzzle Game

FFrom the front door, through the bright gardens and terrace, the winding orchard, the smoky conservatory, the warmth of the kitchen and smokehouse and beyond, Botany Manor unfolds like a maze. This is the family house of our protagonist. She is the well-traveled and expert botanist Arabella Greene, and we follow her footsteps around her grand house and grounds.

We know he is old: his canes are placed upright in the corners of the rooms and there are plenty of chairs to rest on. We come across letters from friends that ooze nostalgia for their shared youth, long gone. We never get too close to Arabella, but the game isn’t really about her: it’s about the plants she loves so much and the mansion itself.

Arabella’s quest is simple, but completing it is a delightful challenge. She must complete a compendium of rare and unusual plants that she has discovered during her adventures, intended to be published. The game is set in the austere, patriarchal culture of the 1890s, so Arabella’s success in her field has great meaning in this context, and we immediately root for her. (At one point we find a rejection letter from a university, arguing that Arabella is a woman whose place is in the home.) Filling this book with details of rare and beautiful plants is the fine narrative thread that holds together the large set of puzzles that comprise the real ingredients of the game. The question we must answer is always this: how do I grow this strange plant?

Peppered with secrets… in the greenhouse of Botany Manor. Photography: Balloon Studios

As we guide Arabella through interconnected scenes, we discover how to bring plants to life. They need humidity, heat, cold, wind, bursts of light, sound and smoke. It is necessary to treat the soil. Each location in the mansion offers a veiled solution to getting each plant out of its pot, but getting to that flowering moment is a challenge. We collect clues (sometimes scientific graphs, sometimes children’s songs about the type of trees that grow in a specific forest, sometimes in cookbooks or the back of postcards) that lead us to the correct formula.

There’s a lot of cross-referencing to do, checking posters on the walls and notes on tables, which means a lot of walking around the mansion to avoid mistakes. Although this is never exhausting. The game landscape is colorful and well lit. It’s easy to feel a little lost, but never disoriented. There is nothing lurking in the shadows; Arabella is strangely alone, even as the fire roars and the kitchen bubbles. The mansion is not crowded or overly decorated, as it easily could have been. There’s a lot of balance and consideration in the space: you don’t want to confuse the player, but you also don’t want to give them easy solutions. The atmosphere is bright and hopeful.

Botany Manor is not a long game, but it is immersive and relaxing. There are fantastic, straightforward accessibility options for players struggling with the motion sickness that can often come with first-person gameplay. It has a classic feel: it has hints of Myst and The Witness, but none of their heaviness. The challenges are never too frustrating. It’s a perfect two-night experience, a journey into a surprisingly sunny past, a story peppered with secrets that gently connect us to Arabella, but never overwhelm the player. Although the story never allows us to get too close to her, helping her complete these sophisticated and measured puzzles is truly satisfying and peaceful.

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