Botany Manor review: Bloom where you are planted

Cultivate and research rare plants while reflecting on the interconnectedness of nature, no green thumb required.


The enigmatic nature of plants makes botany a fascinating field of study. The way that plants interact with and adapt to their environment can seem downright mystical at times. This sentiment comprises the focus of Botany Manor, a first-person narrative game with exploration and science at the forefront. Developed by Balloon Studios and published by Whitethorn Games, Botany Manor is set in 19th-century England during an era of invention and discovery. The story is told from the perspective of a scientist looking to research and publish a book on rare plants as a magnum opus to round out her career. While the subject matter is of particular interest to plant enthusiasts like myself, you don’t have to have a green thumb to appreciate the nuanced storytelling and clever puzzles Botany Manor has to offer.

Turning over a new leaf 

View from inside the greenhouse.

Source: Whitethorn Games

Players take on the role of Arabella Greene, a retired botanist who has returned to her family home, the titular Botany Manor, to begin working on one final research project. You have been tasked with exploring the vast Victorian-era estate to discover the secrets behind cultivating a variety of rare plant species. To accomplish this, you must make your way through the manor in search of clues and information that will help you grow each specimen. Along the way, Arabella's findings are annotated within an herbarium book titled Forgotten Flora, which she aims to have published when complete.

The narrative is conveyed through a series of letters, notes, and objects strewn about the manor. As you gather information about different plants, you will also glean an understanding of the challenges faced by Arabella and other women in the field of botany during this bygone era. A poignant tale unfolds about a scientist learning to overcome adversity and discrimination while pursuing her career, with themes that still resonate to this day. I could sense Arabella’s mounting frustration with each crumpled rejection letter and discarded note, which made her perseverance that much more inspiring.

Branching out 

Inside the library hall.

Source: Whitethorn Games

Exploration plays a massive role in Arabella's research. A series of clues are available in each chapter, which get added to the herbarium notes once found. Determining the correct clues for each specimen involves astute observation and drawing inferences from books, notes, posters, and other documents. Conducting research in this way feels like botanical detective work, rewarding you with new rooms to explore with each case you crack. There are a handful of plants to cultivate in each of the game’s five chapters, and they can be grown without finding every clue, as long as you meet the right conditions.

One of the many potting stations.

Source: Whitethorn Games

In between finding clues and exploring the vast manor, your time is spent planting seeds at conveniently placed potting stations found throughout the estate. After sowing a seedling, you can pick up the pot to examine it as well as set it on select surfaces. Getting each specimen to flower usually involves planting them with certain ingredients or placing the planter pot in the right environment. For example, a temperature-sensitive plant may require being placed near a heat vent to successfully bloom, while another plant may need to detect certain sounds nearby to trigger its growth. Although the in-game flora are fictional versions inspired by real plants, the magical properties they possess help convey the relationship between plants and their habitat. As you uncover the growth conditions for each plant, the herbarium will update the corresponding entry with new details and a colorful illustration. Each discovery is accompanied by a lovely animation, endearing tunes, and a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Stop and smell the flowers 

View of the kitchen from the stairs.

Source: Whitethorn Games

There is a lot of backtracking involved when learning about a plant, as the clues for a specimen are rarely found all in one location. Luckily, the in-game map of the manor grounds made navigating the maze-like mansion a breeze, especially once you begin to open up shortcuts. When you aren’t conducting research, you can stop and take in the sights at one of the many chairs and benches stationed throughout the estate. While sitting down gives you a chance to bask in gorgeous scenery and appreciate the visual splendor of the manor, there is not much more to the seating mechanic than that, and it seemed there were way more seats than there were reasons to sit in them.

As much as I enjoyed unearthing the secret mechanisms behind each plant species, I was a bit disappointed to find that there was not anything more to do with the plants themselves once they had been grown and discovered. After you reach the end of Arabella’s touching story, there is very little replay value aside from going back to try to unlock any missed achievements.

Coming up roses 

A glowing plant specimen beside a Morse code box.

Source: Whitethorn Games

Botany Manor is a laid-back game that allows players to go at their own pace, so its length depends on how long it takes you to piece together the clues in each chapter. The credits rolled at around five hours for me, which was ultimately a bit sooner than I had hoped. While its short length makes for a digestible experience, the clever puzzles and thoughtful narrative left me wanting more; more plants to discover, more clues to find, and more systems to toy around with would have taken the game from great to exceptional.

Despite its brevity, Botany Manor is a wholesome puzzle game that turns academic research into an engaging endeavor. The central theme focuses on finding the conditions to allow a living entity to flourish, a concept that is elegantly reflected in both Arabella’s personal journey as well as in gameplay. The game thematically underscores the overall interconnectedness of nature and highlights the influence that one's environment can have on well-being. Botany Manor left me yearning for more botanical discoveries and I can only hope that the developers sow the seeds of a sequel someday.

This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Botany Manor releases on PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on April 9, 2024.

Contributing Editor

Larryn is a freelance contributor who creates video game guides and reviews for Shacknews and has more than a decade of experience covering games across various outlets. When she's not gaming, Larryn can often be found watering houseplants, playing D&D, or teaching her cats new tricks.

Review for
Botany Manor
  • Intriguing narrative
  • Puzzles are fun to solve
  • Beautiful visuals and scenery
  • Good background music
  • Wish there was more to do with the plants once grown
  • Not much replay value
  • Short-lived experience that I didn't want to end
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