Botanicula review

By Ozzie Mejia, Apr 25, 2012 9:00am PDT

Following up on the imaginative work in its post-apocalyptic Steampunk world of Machinarium, Czech Republic-based indie developer Amanita Design has given birth to another memorable new world. Botanicula blends together a traditional point-and-click adventure with a world of oddball creatures to create an astounding experience.

Botanicula takes place on a lush tree filled with living plants and insects. Evil shadowy parasites are looking to suck the life out of the world's last seed. To stop them, five friends who aren't exactly what anyone would consider the blueprint for heroes join forces. There's a feathery flying insect, a mushroom, a poppy seed, an acorn-shaped bug, and a twig. Each of them has a unique ability that can useful depending on the situation.

Botanicula's narrative unfolds without the aid of text or dialogue. The story is told through a series of animated events, wacky gestures, and grunts and gibberish. Most of it is played up for laughs, yet the story remains coherent and compelling. Seeing the five friends panic wildly at the sight of a ferocious beetle conveys how dangerous the outside world is, yet maintains the game's lighthearted tone. It's not often that I see a well-told story without text-heavy dialogue, but Botanicula pulls it off without any trouble.

The point-and-click mechanics veer towards the traditional side of the genre. Interactive objects are easily identifiable with the mouse and almost all of them contribute to the main objective in some way. No red herrings to be found here. Much of Botanicula is spent on fetch quests in which the five heroes must find a number of objects that will help them proceed to the next chunk of the world. One of the game’s first objectives, for example, is to find five keys scattered in the area.

Searching for objects starts to feel repetitive, as evidenced by going from finding keys, to finding lost children, and then to finding birds. The game counters the potential onset of any doldrums with its astonishing art design and fresh instances of humor. The biggest laughs can be found after uncovering hidden scenes throughout the game. One such instance found Mr. Twig sticking his eye through a hole, only to find the creature inside ready to poke him in the peeper. The game employs several instances of this slapstick style of humor, especially once the main characters encounter civilization. These comedy bits, along with the accompanying sound effects and score by Czech band DVA, help make this game feel like an animated short.

Traveling through Botanicula's world is like wandering through an animated nature documentary. The game features dozens of plant and animal species, each reflective of their own unique nature. The game is at its best when focusing on exploration. Poking around could lead to creatures bursting into song or curiously looking at their surroundings. Thoroughly picking through every inch of space is encouraged, as each new species discovered yields a collectible card in reward. There’s enough wildlife to fill a zoo and trying to find them all is an enjoyable challenge.

Point-and-click enthusiasts will love what Botanicula brings to the table. The game's art style is truly something to behold. The vivid colors and imaginative creatures bring the nature-filled world to life, while also adding to the eye-catching dream sequences and flashbacks. Even with the ominous parasites occasionally making their presence known, this adventure is a lighthearted romp through a colorful world.

[This Botanicula review is based on a PC copy of the game provided by the publisher.]

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