By Marty Mulrooney
Botanicula is an indie point-and-click adventure game created by Amanita Design of Machinarium fame. The player takes control of five little creatures (Mr. Lantern, Mr. Twig, Mr. Poppy Head, Mr. Feather and Mrs. Mushroom) who must save the last seed of life from their home tree as they are pursued by evil spider-like parasites. Featuring no spoken or written dialogue, Botanicula is an adventure game that focuses on exploration and discovery.
Botanicula is an aural and visual feast from the moment it begins. Built using Flash – like Machinarium was before it – Amanita Design has pushed the boat out in terms of both art and sound design. The sense of scale and life is immediately apparent and highly impressive, with the player genuinely feeling as if they have been dropped into a living, breathing eco-system full of wonderfully bizarre creepy crawlies.
Although the player controls five separate tiny creatures, the majority of the time they move and act as one. Botanicula puts the focus on exploration and interaction, with the five main characters merely acting as a visual representation of the player as they poke around and explore the world. This is reflected within each and every environment – many clickable areas of interest are not strictly necessary to progress the game but still respond regardless, enhancing the overall experience as a result.
The environments manage to remain varied despite all being part of one much larger environment – for example, the opening section set in a tree features many different ‘areas’ of the same location dependant on which branches you choose to traverse. The gameplay is point and click in perhaps its purest form – there is a limited inventory but most of the time the player must simply click everything possible until they reach the desired outcome.
The disadvantage of this type of gameplay is that the puzzles are fairly easy to breeze through by simply exhausting every available option and clicking with reckless abandon. On the bright side, this makes the game accessible to a wide range of gamers and means that the developers can throw in new ideas whenever they feel like without the need for tutorials. It’s refreshing to play a game where you simply know what you need to do next without the need for any explanation.
At its heart, Botanicula is a fun experience that is more than happy to bypass the more traditional elements of adventure games such as conversations, grand storylines and puzzles. That isn’t to say that it lacks any of these three main ingredients – there is frequent communication between the five heroes and the other creatures found throughout, the storyline is simple but compelling and the puzzles serve their purpose. Oh, and the soundtrack is awesome – both the visuals and sound design bring to mind Sony Computer Entertainment’s LocoRoco games.
Amanita Design refers to this title as an ‘exploration game’ rather than an adventure game and this seems like an ultimately fair label. Even more so than Machinarium, Botanicula is about the experience rather than telling a deep, meaningful story. It doesn’t offer anything particularly profound or new, but it is a fun blast for the few hours it lasts and once again proves that the only thing restraining indie gaming is imagination.
8 OUT OF 10