The adventure game genre may have received an adrenaline shot with Double Fine’s immense Kickstarter success, but its fans have always been clad in full support uniform, clicking their mouse at a smooth rate of 15 CPM’s. Even when it seemed that the sun may have finally set on the genre, a group of enthusiasts always find their way together to form studios like Telltale Games and the gorgeously obscure Amanita Designs. Where one takes pages from popular media and breathes life in to classic, dormant franchises, the other reinvents the genre and bases its creations on childlike, bewildered imaginations. From the Samorost games, to the superb Machinarium, Amanita Designs have struck gold again with a charming title that goes back to the wilds and reminds us how much beauty may potentially be existing right under our very noses.
Grouping together five quirky tree creatures on a mission to save the last seed from their home tree which is infested by evil parasites, Botanicula is a dream-like experience that forced me to lay aside my gaming cape of convention and reason and surround myself with puzzles whose solutions are as random as their suggestion, if not more so. When a game developer bases randomness as a basis of progress, it’s risky — but induced with the right amount of charm and discrete application of common day to day knowledge, you have yourself a game that pushes forward with its ideas, regardless of absurdity. The solution is always clear, of course, and you will never find yourself scratching your head after solving a puzzle, but rather giggling like a five year-old. Everything about this game emanates with childhood bliss and the simplicity that is within our grasp, but unfortunately slips through our fingers due to one social insecurity or another.
The five creatures move as one, beautifully animated and charismatic entity with only a couple of scenes granting you access to each individual. Each of them, you will learn as the game progresses, possess a special talent that is of utmost importance to the whole: Mr. Poppy Head is the bulky one, Mrs. Mushroom can bounce things on her head, Mr. Feather can float, Mr. Twig can access hard to reach areas and as for Mr. Lantern, I’ll leave that for you to discover. Companionship is key in this game and you will become the sixth creature sooner than you think.
As all nature strolls go, however, there are the occasional gripes that one may go through in regards to such games. They are made with most gamers in mind, but some of you out there may not appreciate the randomness of the puzzles or the mechanic that forces you to pass your mouse over anything that blinks or moves in the hopes that you may activate it. One puzzle solution, for example, presented itself by pure chance just because I happened to revisit a specific area that I normally would not have. However, such issues are ridiculously minor and do not grant this game any negative points in my book.
For those of you who have not played such games before and would like a peek in to what Amanita Design is all about before taking the plunge, Samorost is an early experiment of theirs that is available free-to-play on their website and that inspired such grandiose works as Botanicula. For those of you who are fans of the genre and the developer, have faith and lavish in the truth of another phenomenal creation.
Botanicula was developed by Jaromír Plachý and Amanita Design studio and is available for purchase and download here.