In a distant forest stands a tree that is a thriving metropolis and home to a scad of interesting and endearing creatures. Unfortunately, their peaceful existance is being threatened by a dark force, so five beings; Mr. Lantern, Mr. Twig, Mr. Poppy Head, Mr. Feather, and Mrs. Mushroom embark on a quest to save their home from certain destruction. This all may sound like a zany children’s bedtime story, but it is actually the plot of a new game called Botanicula by Amanita Design.
Like Amanita’s other popular game, Machinarium, Botanicula features a point-and-click puzzle design, melted with a hearty bit of exploration. Think of it as a sort of digital hike through a psychadellic rainforest tree. Players are asked to guide the group of protagonists through the tree that is their home and solve various connundrums of the tree’s citizens in order to advance to the next section of the tree. A lot of these puzzles are solved by collecting an item, or series of items – but this is no easy feat. The items are almost never sitting out in the open, and even if they are you will still need to jump througha few hoops in order to get it.
Darkness is afoot in the tree of Botanicula.
Rest assured that these hoops will be the most delightful hoops you’ve ever jumped through. The environment of Botanicula’s tree is jam packed with hidden goodies and Easter eggs. Some of these instances will be crucial to your advancement through the game, but the rest are simply relaxing diversions that serve as a reward for fully exploring the game. Truth be told, the key to success in the game is a willingness to get lost in the game, and clicking every single environmental element you can get your mouse pointer on.
The team at Amanita really raised the bar on teir already excellent work when coming up with visual concepts for Botanicula. The art style is vaguely reminiscent of something that would come from the mind of Tim Burton, but is also fresh and unique. There is a seemingly endless stream of whimsical creatures and characters for one to enjoy, or occaisionally be disgusted by. The environments are equally as interesting and are rendered in a way that further enhances the player’s desire to explore the world fully and discover all of it’s hidden nooks and crannies. The world you will be exploring is, in fact, so packed with details, that most of the time when you are stuck on a puzzle it will be because you simply overlooked something.
There is no end of delightful weirdness in this game.
The entire soundtrack is written by a Czech band known as DVA. It is especially hard to find any real information about DVA, but their quirky and interesting indie rock fits in nicely with the game’s visual style. Even the fake spoken words in the game mesh well with this interesting band’s tunes, there were times it seemed like the characters might be the ones performing the tracks (this very well may have been the intent).
With just two games under their belt, it’s clear that Amanita has a vision of the future of gaming that vaires greatly from that of the run-of-the-mill AAA developers. Not only does it try to break all the rules of conventional gaming, but for another week proceeds from the Humble Botanicula Debut Bundlee benefit The World Land Trust. Gameplay may seem a little broken and patchy at first, but once you wrap your mind around the fact that this is a game all about seeing every single intricacy of the bizzare world you’ve been immersed in, the actual puzzles will seem like merely a distraction along your path through the wonderful world of Botanicula.
[review title=”Botanicula” pros=”Excellent point-and-click exploration game that is easy to get lost in, proceeds going to great cause” cons=”Gameplay can seem a little broken up and not well-planned, and to play it on Linux you will have to figure out how to install the abandoned AdobeAIR platform” score=85]