If I were to describe Botanicula — the sort-of spiritual sequel to indie point-and-click puzzle/adventure Machinarium — I’d say it has the strange other-worldly charm of Oddworld, happy nonsense-words music similar to Sigur Ros, and fun but not mind-bendingly difficult puzzles that remind me of playing Pajama Sam as a kid. Is it actually as good as any of those things? Yes. Should you read this review anyway? I’d like it if you did.
Botanicula follows the story of five little plant creatures on a quest to save their ecosystem from a group of plant-sucking evil spider-ey things. All five characters usually stick together, so controlling all of them is just the same as controlling a single character in any other point-and-click game. Occasionally, you’ll be faced with a puzzle that only a specific character has the ability to solve. You’re never penalized for choosing the wrong character, so these segments usually just end up forcing you to select each character until you find the right one.
Compared to Machinaruim‘s many logic puzzles, Botanicula is filled with mostly easy-but-fun item-based puzzles, much like more classic adventure games. For instance, you’ll need to find a seed to trade for an egg, but in order to get that seed you need to go through the anthill… stuff like that. It’s refreshing, since while the game does have a nice difficulty curve as you play, it never really reaches the point where you feel like you’ll never figure it out.
The art style in Botanicula can only be described as “wonderfully cute.” All of the sound effects are either made by people, or what sounds like random household objects. This really goes well with the game’s sort of scrapbook-esque look, with all the characters, objects and scenery made by warped pictures of real-world things. It really comes together well and looks strangely natural in contrast to Machinarium‘s industrial, sketchbook sort of aesthetic.
Botanicula isn’t incredibly long, nor is it very difficult, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. What starts off as a cute adventure among five friends quickly turns into an epic journey, and you begin to feel just as lost and confused as the characters, exploring new territory that they’ve never dreamed existed outside their homes.