Make believe Botany gets the point-and-click treatment.
Reviewed on the PC by Mark Dicks
What if fuzzy black orbs with spindly legs threatened your home? Would you let your selective arachnophobia get the best of you? Perhaps it would be more chivalrous to take a leaf from the book of Botanicula. It teaches that bravery grows in numbers as well as on trees. So round up four of your most amicable neighbours as it’s time to make a stand!
Amanita Design’s newest adventure is a fresh take on the humbling tale of save the trees. Five seedier versions of The Land Before Time crew (literal rather than sordid, why you filthy…) band together to test their friendship amongst local obscurity with an ever-pursuing danger. It all begins with the most bulbous of the bunch (shall we say Spike?) receiving a bump to the head. An unconscious prediction shows her/him/it and co. to be their homeland’s only hope to thwart the nature sapping parasites’ domination plans. As the player you will be guiding this treetop troop with the aid of some clever clicking throughout the inevitable dose of search and fetching.
Point-and-clicks have come a long way and Botanicula is another example of the genre’s maturing creativity. However the gameplay pit-stop difficulty of yesteryear graphic adventures like say The Legend of Kyrandia series, appears to be on a vacation this time. Keeping matters to the point
-and-click what we have here is certainly no more than a casual trip. If you end up clicking on everything onscreen you should theoretically never lose your way. Even for the ‘pick your puzzle solving hero’ choices it is still simply a process of elimination. Depending on your thirst for curiosity the whole game could be tied up between two to five hours. As for me? Well, I do enjoy a good quenching of exploration.
With that mishap out of the way, I’m happy to declare that everything else, unless of course you’re a miserable human being, should give you a healthy helping of the jollies!
The whole team behind this title have bloomed in their chosen fields. The result is a wonderfully realised computer game ecosystem yearning to be explored. A hand drawn folly of bizarre critters connects the surreal in-game evolutionary chain. Amongst the hand painted locales you’ll encounter barking plant bulbs, scissor crab beetles, circus performing seeds, amphibian like beings down to the downright unexplainable. Each has their own enigmatic character coupled with their personalised scripted animations. Part of the joy here is to document the in-game’s breathing mythology. You may be surprised at the extent of what you can hover the cursor over onscreen. There’s even an accomplishment there for you achievement stalkers to go out and collect ‘em all. Ultimately, out of the six levels there is a themed collection quota to adhere to for the sake of progression. But I couldn’t help but find that the species you encounter along the way to be the real attention grabbing stars of the show.
This adventure does come with its puzzles. They’re not exactly taxing but they do have a fair swat at originality. I recall stealing a glowing orb from a worm through its hovel maze to be a mouse-operating highlight. Bearing in mind I was testing this game on my Mac desktop. I can image with a touch based equivalent this puzzle to have been completed with far greater ease!
A top one particular water-tipping puzzle was my favourite moment. Here sat what I believed to be tadpoles. With a completed click upon each of these perched young ‘uns set them all off in a choreographed chorus. It’s the spontaneous sound design titbits like this that really round out the package. Bagging the ‘Excellence in Audio’ award at the Independent Games Festival 2012 Botanicula booms with ear rattling class. With the Czech alternative two-piece DVA doing their experimental part, it all sounds rather similar to the French animated classic Belleville Rendez-Vous. The soundtrack excels with tuneful animalistic qualities using ambience, sound effects and music that over shadow the sparsely used un-intelligible dialogue. In fact the human voice has been used in a far more creative way in literally crafting the sounds of this make believe forest. When all other parts are married this seamlessly the collective “wo-hoos” and “ahhhs” from the five protagonists is all that is really needed to be spoken. Once you hear it you’ll realise too that this game is well deserved of its award!
Botanicula on a whole presents the player with a surprisingly welcome lull to momentum with its non-playable cast steering the excitement. It isn’t a complete re-imaging of the click to interact genre but it does encompass you in an expertly designed homemade natural world that makes its own rules about reality. In other words it’s all enjoyably bonkers and well worth documenting!
So it’s rather short and not particularly difficult, but then again, how many games have you played this year that involve saving a miniature flightless chicken from being the dinner for a singing family of conkers?