A botanical puzzle game worth watching out for.
I was immediately drawn to Botany Manor’s promise of floral research in a walking sim, puzzle narrative, wrapping. Published by Whitethorn Games and developed by Balloon Studios, Botany Manor has a simple, soft, look that’s inviting and familiar; it almost has a painting or clay-like quality to it (think The Witness and Maquette).
The trailer reminded me of some of my favorite gaming memories of 2022. Specifically, identifying plants in Strange Horticulture and inspecting the greenhouse in Escape Academy. It feels like we’ve been getting a wave of cozy, puzzly, plant and potion games and I’m here for it. And, after my hands-on session, I feel like Botany Manor could be my newest favorite.
You play as Arabella Greene, a retired botanist who is getting back into the swing of things by refamiliarizing herself with her research. In Botany Manor, you’ll be exploring her stately home in 19th-century England and solving the puzzle of how to grow each plant. This means interacting with different items, inspecting your environment, and piecing together the clues you find. Clues can take the form of posters, newspapers, letters, paintings, postcards, and more.
My session included two puzzles and solving them was satisfying but reasonable. The first was pretty straightforward and took place in a small greenhouse. It involved looking at a postcard that came with my first packet of seeds to grow and using the location the postcard was from to determine the ideal growth temperature by referencing a separate chart. Finding the right temperature also meant considering the type of seed.
The next puzzle was a bit more complicated; it spanned several rooms and involved making a chemical needed to photograph a plant to make it bloom. One con was that I figured out I needed to photograph the plant before even getting the hint that explained why that made it bloom but this is still an early puzzle. I imagine things will get a bit more complex over time. This second plant also highlights the surprising solutions in Botany Manor. It seems like it’ll be a combination of science and whimsy which will hopefully keep me on my toes throughout my playthrough. Like any puzzle game, Botany Manor will live and die on whether or not it finds a balance between interesting and obtuse but I'm optimistic.
Additionally, I'm looking forward to the narrative potential behind learning more about the life and career of Arabella, and the challenges she faced as a woman navigating her scientific career. I didn't see much of that in this brief demo but the promise piques my interest.
Botany Manor has a 2023 release window and will launch on PC and Nintendo Switch.