Botanicula review
The Good:

Unique, surreal game world with outstanding art, animation, sound and music; vast cast of imaginative characters; challenging but interesting gameplay; numerous puzzles of many varieties.

The Bad:

Main cast poorly-defined as individuals and never work in tandem to solve problems; zero instructions and experiment-based gameplay may alienate inexperienced players.

Our Verdict:

A creation of obvious love and care, Botanicula is a must-play for those seeking a truly imaginative and entertaining adventure game.

Almost every screen has a number of hotspots, some useful, some merely entertaining. There are various little activities to distract you from your quest: you can click flowers into blooming, disturb bugs ensconced in nooks and crannies, leap off springy branches, pluck dead leaves, play chase with naughty baby-critters, watch shockingly gory puppet shows, zone out in a psychedelic haze after marching into a cluster of magic mushrooms, and even seek out pictorial storytellers to learn more about the history of the forest. The busy world of fervent little beings offers many moments of comedy as they interact with each other – talking, laughing, fighting, eating, sleeping, colliding. Each action is depicted in great and often hilarious detail, like when the Five try to wrestle a key from a bird's grip, or when one of them is grabbed by an irritated rat-like creature. Another amusing sequence has a genie granting quirky wishes, while you get a whole new reference point for the iconic phrase, "Houston, we have a problem" as matters progress. Of course, you can choose to remain singularly focused on your goals, but refraining from getting fully immersed in this merry, vibrant world would take away a considerable chunk of the overall charm of this game.

Right from the pretty opening cinematic, Botanicula is a visual treat in numerous big and small ways. The translucent home-tree has visible, delicate veins running through it – you can see the sap flowing and cellular organisms swimming inside – and is host to about a hundred species of flora and fauna, catalogued into an encyclopaedia of animated photo-cards as you encounter each. There are buzzing, hovering bee-like spheroids, assorted crawlies, toadstools and fungi, flying fish, crabs, frogs, hummingbirds and woodpeckers, snails, slugs, ants, bioluminescent underground and underwater life-forms, and even a gentle giant tortoise, plus a terrifying flagellated protozoan guard of a parasite chamber. Each creature has a distinct appearance, personality and behaviour, like the long-suffering mother of an infant something, a pesky rattle-bug that wants to keep playing with the Five, and the friendly rotund critters that have a fully-appointed colony replete with a theatre and a bar. Not everyone is friendly, though the villains are easy to spot, being distinctly uglier than the friendlies, with jagged teeth for added effect. The parasites themselves are drawn like spiders, with a nebulous spherical black body and stretchy, grabby thin black legs, while the more virulent versions are an angry red in colour, and sometimes furry as well. Their simplistic design doesn't detract from their ferocity by even a degree; every time the Five encounter one, you too want to scamper away as fast as they do.

The two-dimensional screens boast unique and fabulous art which is exceedingly simple in execution – often just lines and fuzzy blobs, but astonishing in the amount of detail included. Hazy backgrounds create an illusion of depth, and colours are used with superb skill to incite vivid sensations in the absence of speech and descriptions. You'll never be left wondering if a certain area is 'safe' or not (though there are no fatal circumstances to worry about), but you may pause often to bask in the surreal settings. The upper regions of the tree are done in rosy pinks, soft yellows and lush greens, but once you get to the lower half, destroyed by the parasites, the graphics morph into a disquieting collection of drained leaves, rotten berries, pathetic carcasses of tree-creatures, and the reddish-gray, withered body of the tree itself, though given the cartoony aesthetic of the game, even this can best be described as beautifully ugly. The underground scenes, though dark, are done mostly in warm browns and golds, while the claustrophobic confines of the blood red-and-black insides of the infection induce true horror when one of the Five is stranded within. The 1440 x 900 presentation offers the options of displaying at either 100% or 60%, in full-screen or windowed modes, but are bounded by black edges at any resolution higher than the native one.

Like the art, the abundant animation is also first rate, though never overtly extravagant. Physical gestures are excellently adapted, like when the Five creep stealthily past dangerous areas, or shyly ask the genie for their wishes. The supporting cast is equally well treated, whether weeping their eyes out or sulking or even waiting impatiently for the Five to do something for them. The movement of the quick, multi-legged parasites is scarily aggressive, especially the pulsating motion as they relentlessly suck up sap from the tree. This is depicted with remarkable simplicity of both graphics and sound, and yet is convincingly horrific when experienced from the perspective of the tiny tree-creatures, making you feel an anxious urge to save their tree. Casual shocks are also scattered about as the Five inadvertently encounter the not-so-friendly other residents, and there's a heart-stopping moment when they fall several stories towards the gaping maws of a beast. A cute, brief sequence even features Easter eggs of Amanita's earlier releases, Samorost and Machinarium.

As expected with a thriving ecosystem, sounds abound here too. A medley of realistic life-sounds like scratches, buzzes, cricks, and hoots enliven the atmosphere. The critters communicate in chipmunk-y gibberish, but are emotive enough that you always understand what they are saying, or at least feeling. Lullabies, chants, shrieks of joy, cries of despair, shocked intakes of breath, hysterical tears, the soft clicking of the Five's footsteps – each sound adds to the overall ambience of levity or danger. Botanicula also features a custom soundtrack by Czech alternative band DVA, and the background score is indeed quite different from the usual staple. The music is often very quiet, a soothing (or tense, when appropriate) hum almost lost amidst the chitter-chatter, but elevates to euphoric drumbeats when challenges are surmounted, and dissolves into melancholic wailing during particularly unsettling sequences. The band also gets a direct plug when a wish grants you the chance to choose the instruments of the track being played for you, and there's quite a bit of bonus entertainment like an impromptu jam by a frog quartet and a weird jukebox-thingy.

Really, Botanicula is a remarkable game in almost all aspects. Its inimitable art and styling, though never ostentatious, is spectacular, subtly captivating you in concert with the unusual background score. The animation is smooth, detailed and realistic, sometimes disturbingly so, and the game uses its vast repertoire of colours and sounds with great efficiency to create a surreal world that completely immerses you, lingering even after you've finished playing. However, while the Five are endearing enough, they are not fleshed out adequately, either individually or as a group, to be truly memorable in their own right. The experiment-oriented gameplay format, totally bereft of direction and occasionally demanding considerable out-of-the-box thinking and some adept mouse-handling, may not be everyone's cup of tea, and may frustrate those unwilling to spend the time and effort warranted even for seemingly-pedestrian tasks.

Those who do persevere, however, are in for an incredibly imaginative, action-packed, and rewarding journey that covers a hundred-plus unique characters and nearly as many tasks within a span of about four hours. The most engaging aspect of this game, however, which binds together the excellent production quality, creative gameplay, and diverse characters, is its soul, the indefinable “it” factor that makes you feel as if you're a part of the environment and inspires you to want to save the home-tree and its inhabitants, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Botanicula lovingly spins a tale of good versus evil, but it's not only that; it's a quirky, fun adventure game built with evident affection and attention, and is sure to task your mind and win your heart if you take the initiative to explore its vibrant world the old-fashioned way.



AD Botanicula can be purchased at:
Gamersgate   • GOG   • Apple App Store   • Amazon  

Game Info

Botanicula

Platform:
iPad, Mac, PC

Genre:
Fantasy

Developer:
Amanita Design


Game Page »

Digital April 19 2012 Amanita Design

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Botanicula

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User Score

Average based on 38 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Strav on Dec 4, 2012

A jack-in-the-box

You'd thought that a toy game is some kind of bad pleonasm but unfortunately, this is what I found in Botanicula. I must say that since the... Read the review »

Posted by Stefan on Sep 3, 2012

Solid game, but lacks story

There is no story whatsoever (there is the "save the planet" theme, but no dialogs or interaction). This is essentially a puzzle game. The... Read the review »



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About the Author
gamrgrl's avatar
Shuva Raha
Staff Writer

Comments

MoonBird MoonBird
Apr 19, 2012

No matter how great the game is otherwise, but those graphics make me puke instantly. I also knew the score without opening the article. No matter what Amanita spits out, it’s automatically 4½ stars. *sigh*

Jackal Jackal
Apr 19, 2012

No it isn’t “automatically” anything. Many people think their games are great. Deal with it.

Ascovel Ascovel
Apr 19, 2012

The art design (visuals and audio) is what made me pre-order this game instantly as soon as it was possible. I’m downloading it this very moment. The great reviews appearing today made me even more excited to play it.

Terabin Terabin
Apr 19, 2012

Fantastic looking game, fantastic developer, great idea to go with the Humble Bundle so that buyers can support the World Land Trust. They are putting what they stand for into action!

TrevorNZ
Apr 20, 2012

Having played Botanicula for awhile ....WOW what a cute and adorable game, I like the Dog like things, I wonder if they are barking in the right tree? Smile

Doobster
Apr 20, 2012

Played a bit.. what a game Smile Don’t want it to end !

dark_ixion
Apr 20, 2012

As usual no mention of it being available for Linux, which it is. Just says “PC, Mac”... a Mac is brand of PC, and PC isn’t an operating system, so both are inappropriate as “platforms”. I emailed the site a couple years ago about this but there was no response. Should be: “Linux, OS X and Windows”.

Jackal Jackal
Apr 20, 2012

And yet, somehow everyone knows exactly what the category means.

dark_ixion
Apr 20, 2012

“And yet, somehow everyone knows exactly what the category means.” That’s my point… PC doesn’t necessarily mean it’s available for Linux, and in most cases it doesn’t. Except in this case it *is* available for Linux, but there’s no mention of it. I accept most people see PC = Windows, and Mac = OS X, but despite those being inadequate terms for platforms, they’re not enough to cover other operating systems when those are supported too.

Jackal Jackal
Apr 20, 2012

I’m well aware what your point was, but the platform category refers to hardware only.

Strav
Apr 21, 2012

“platform category refers to hardware only”: I’m sorry but we all know that this makes no sense. We generally address software compatibility on the operating system basis. If you wish to be really specific about the details, you could list the processor architectures (X86, ARM, SPARC, etc.) but that would be pedantic in our context. dark_ixion is absolutely right to criticize this PC/MAC categorization and his point is clear: if you seek to find out if some game is compatible with Linux or BSD for that matter, PC means nothing to you. You could go on and ignore this fact, but another fact is that many indie game devs are increasingly considering Linux as a target platform, so well… I think it’s not really wise to dismiss his suggestion (it’s not like this site would have to be re-coded from ground up to is it?)

Jackal Jackal
Apr 21, 2012

This will be the past post on this subject, since it has absolutely nothing to do with the Botanicula review (or the game). The category is there to separate PC from Xbox, Wii, etc., not the minutiae of computer hardware and various OS’s people are using. We have and will continue to list Linux under System Requirements where we’re aware of them.

marcd2011 marcd2011
Apr 22, 2012

I did enjoy this, but it felt far too easy and far too short. The only time i was stuck in the whole game was when i had missed a screen which contained an item i needed. None of the puzzles required much thought and I completed it in one sitting, of about 3 hours, getting 111/123 character cards.

zane
Apr 22, 2012

Would i like the game to be twice as long? yes i would. But the game is long enough for its price, and more importantly it concludes well and satisfyingly. And even more importantly, it is ridiculously cute and atmospheric with a brilliant soundtrack.

Morave
Apr 22, 2012

I felt like being back in the kindergarten. And guess what, I loved it! My only complaint is, that it was far too easy, none of the puzzles took more than a couple minutes to figure out. But the graphics are lovely and the soundtrack works amazingly well. Worth every penny I paid for it.

Strav
Apr 27, 2012

Apparently, I’m not a child anymore. It felt like the Tiny Bang Story all over again but this time, with happy faces painted all over. I too, smiled here and there but after all, I’m only left with the impression to have been through a bunch of random, boring puzzles. Machinarium was a much more solid production.

Jelena Jelena
Apr 27, 2012

I love the ‘quirkyness’ of Botanicula, enjoying every minute of playing it!

Interplay Interplay
Apr 28, 2012

Just finished the game. A couple of thoughts: I thought the visual design and the graphics were really beautiful. They really pop off the screen. When the inevitable iPad version comes out, the Apple types are going to swoon over the visuals. I thought the sound and music fit the game very well though a couple of times I put headphones on because I realized the sound/music was probably incredibly annoying to the person in the room who wasn’t playing the game. Yes, it is short, but theoretically you could saunter over to the Humble Bundle and buy this game (and other great ones) for $1 if you chose so one can’t really complain. Overall, though, I think Machinarium is a much better game and remains Amanita’s high point. In same ways, this feels like a step back to their earlier Samorost-type games after they seemed to be making very interesting progress forward with Machinarium. Really, I think this game could best be described as a souped-up, longer, and more beautiful version of Samorost. Really, though, (and especially as long as the Humble Bundle is going on), I can’t imagine any regular visitor to this site wouldn’t give the game a try and make up their own mind about it.

inflikkt inflikkt
May 7, 2012

alot of people are hating, but i really enjoy these graphics lol. mechanarium had a bit more charm in ways, perhaps, but this gameplay is a bit smoother. i love the music and feeling u get playing through it. really creative game Smile

tsa tsa
May 9, 2012

I played Botanicula for a while but it isn’t for me. The lack of a story and of conversations with people makes it too ‘poor’ a game for my liking.

DrFrankenstein DrFrankenstein
May 22, 2012

Amanita Design delivers yet another excellent game which both clever and charming. These guys are the living proof that it’s not the budget which makes a game great, but putting some heart and creativity into it.

Excellent review by Shuva and a score right on target.

bai_ganyo
Jul 9, 2012

“No matter what Amanita spits out, it’s automatically 4½ stars.”
What could this mean? Maybe a conspiracy? Or Adventure Gamers holding stocks of Amanita Design? Amanita Design bribing Adventure Gamers with the copious amounts of money they most obviously have? As well as any other site I saw a review of this game?!
This must be really big.

Stefan
Sep 3, 2012

@bai_ganyo
I think he just means you’re biased. I haven’t played other Amanita games and I just don’t see the reason for 4,5 stars. I give it 3,5 stars. See my review for details.

For the official review: I didn’t like it. There is very little that will surprise you after reading it. The review is basically a spoiler and tl;dr.

Jackal Jackal
Sep 3, 2012

The reviewer hadn’t played any Amanita games before either.  Doesn’t matter what he meant; he was wrong.

Northest Northest
Sep 11, 2013

Oldish game which I’ve just got around to finishing and I’m glad to see it thought of so highly here. This game is delightful. I wonder if Amanita Design have claim to Nintendo’s crown as kings of charm.



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