Control an unlikely-looking band of heroes and fight black, spidery things on a diminutive scale.
Publisher/Developer: Amanita Design (independent)
Genre: Exploration Adventure
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac, Linux
Release Date: May 2012 (US)
Have you ever wanted to be dropped right in the middle of the action; with no explanation or other details? Do you like the challenge of trying to figure out what to do next? Do you wonder what life is like for those creatures that live on a tree? If so, then you might want to consider trying Botanicula.
Botanicula starts out with a seed falling to the land. The seed grows into a tree filled with life. The tree is then attacked by a black spidery thing which sucks the color out of the ďbudsĒ on the edges of the tree. The final bud escapes from the top of the tree into the three and into the lap of our hero. The purpose of this game is to fight off the black spider things and save the life on the tree. Youíll control a ragtag group of heroes along the way. There is a stick-like entity, a flying entity, a strong man, and mushroom, and the bearer of the seed.
The game doesnít have any text dialogs or speech, so everything communicated in the game is through the graphics. That means, I donít know who or what the characters are; or what exactly they are carrying. It could be a seed. It could be an energy ball. Exactly what I was supposed to do, and where to go next, was not clear. I often felt like I was a blind man clicking in the dark in hopes that something would happen. Iím undecided if this is a source of frustration or just part of the gameís charm.
Explore the World
Your team immediately starts down the tree but finds their way is blocked by a big bug thing that has lost some of its wings, or feathers. Your first task is to find the three feathers it is missing so it can clear your path. Youíll do this by exploring and clicking on everything you can find. Donít stop at just clicking, though. Sometimes you may have to drag items. Other times you may have to click and hold an item. Sometimes just moving the mouse without any clicks is the proper interaction. The game provides no indication which action you should take with which items and the whole game feels a bit of a guess. Even with a walkthrough in hand, I had trouble completing some puzzles.
Throughout your exploration, youíll interact with other creatures that live on the tree. Most of the time, the only purpose to interact with these creatures is to collect their Ďcardsí. The card system is like a scoring system for the game, although I didnít realize that until I had completed the journey. To collect the cards, youíll often have to click on multiple creatures on the same screen. Sometimes youíll click in a certain order. Other times youíll click in a certain time frame. Itís often unclear. For example, when you click on one creature, it starts singing. The singing draws some more similar creatures, which you also have to click on. They join in on the song; bringing more creatures. Eventually youíll receive a creature card from this interaction, as long as you can get all creatures singing at once.
The bulk of the creatures you interact with are not required to finish the game. I might compare the Ďcreature cardí to a Noahís Ark like approach. The cards you collect are the animals you can bring with you to the end of the game. But, Iím not sure if that was the intent or not. Iím not even sure if that assessment is correct.
Along the way, youíll also pick up some inventory elements. These are few, but are important. Youíll collect these automatically, almost by clicking on them. On the screen where you need them, youíll be able to drag them out of your inventory and onto the board. Itís an easy way to tell you need to use something on this screen, or not.
A Whimsical Atmosphere
The graphics to Botanicula are lighthearted and whimsical. The sound track bolsters the game play. I wish there was more explanation than mumbled voices and confusing scenes, though. All of this presents a relaxed atmosphere for you to play through. You can click on anything you want without fear of dying or breaking the game. This style is the best thing going for this game. Youíll have fun exploring the land and sending each one of your characters to attack certain obstacles.
Botanicula reminds me a bit of Machinarium. Perhaps this is because the game was built in Flash, primarily a web technology that people love to hate. The two games offer a similar gameplay approach. You wonít receive a lot of explanation, and youíll just have to keep clicking until something happens. Eventually youíll find something that works. Despite its flaws, Botanicula presents a truly unique experience, unlike anything youíve ever played before.
OS:Microsoft® Windows® XP/Vista/7
Processor:1.6 Ghz Processor
Memory:1 GB RAM
Hard Drive:700 MB HD space
OS:Snow Leopard or later.
Processor: Intel Mac
Memory:1 GB RAM
Hard Drive:700 MB HD space