Botany Manor – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle game
Developer: Balloon Studios
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
Platform: PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: PC

Botany Manor – Review

Site Score
Good: An expertly crafted leisurely puzzle game
Bad: Clues aren't logged in the Herbarium
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

One of the joys of reviewing video games is that occasionally you run into a game you wouldn’t have picked up on your own volition, only to fall in love with it. Botany Manor is such a game. It doesn’t sound like anything special on paper: it’s a short and simple puzzle game with a garden theme. However, now that we’ve spent considerable time with the game, we can confidently say that developer Balloon Studios’ latest title is something truly special. Allow us to explain why you should visit Botany Manor the next time your green thumb starts itching.


The way Botany Manor handles storytelling is a curious thing. There is plenty of lore to discover here, both about the different flora that are essential to the story and about our protagonist, the retired botanist Arabella Greene. Rather than following a traditional narrative structure, however, you’re piecing together everything through gameplay. Many of the clues you gather for solving the game’s puzzles also offer an insight into Arabella’s life and the history of the titular manor. It’s a very effective way of storytelling that paints an emotional picture of our elderly protagonist, her friends, and her family without ever actually showing any of these people. A particularly notable theme that Botany Manor deals with is the position of women in the 19th century, as the game is set in 1890. Arabella breaks the mold, wanting to be a successful researcher in her field, while having to fight against the prejudice of a male-dominated society that dismisses her work. It’s a bittersweet story that is worth seeking out, even if it doesn’t necessarily have an impact on Botany Manor’s gameplay.


The graphics that bring the world of Botany Manor to life shy away from photorealism, instead rendering the world in a hand-painted art style. The sprawling mansion holds a surprising amount of visual variety too, thanks to the different sources you need to examine for clues, like paintings and books. The gorgeous lighting helps too, and the game strikes a good balance between tiny details you need to take your time to appreciate and visual impact, like when you see a tree trunk growing inside of a room.


There are several layers to Botany Manor’s soundscape, some more subtle than others. The soundtrack is always present but never takes center stage, instead creating a cozy ambiance befitting of the game’s relaxing nature. Short audio cues let you know when you’ve done a good thing. And then there are the ambient sound effects, which really are the most important element of Botany Manor’s audio. There is no dialogue present in Botany Manor, and as such, no voice acting. This results in the sound effects doing the heavy lifting here, from chirping birds, which also happen to tie into one of the puzzles, to the comforting crackling sound of the fire in the kitchen stove.


Strip away the utterly charming presentation of Botany Manor and beneath it, you’ll find an expertly crafted puzzle game. Each puzzle requires you to grow a seedling into a full-fledged plant, with the ultimate goal being to fill up Arabella’s herbarium book. Of course, you’ll need to figure out just how to raise your plant, so you’ll be wandering around the manor, looking for clues in unlikely places. A postcard from an old friend may tell you the location that a plant originates from, for example. All of the featured plants are fictional, so you can’t fall back on real-world knowledge. This also allowed Balloon Studios to get creative with puzzle solutions: there’s a plant that needs to be exposed to lightning flashes to bloom, and a plant that needs you to talk to it via Morse code. Botany Manor isn’t a realistic game in the slightest, instead opting for an almost Willy Wonka-esque approach to its logic. While you’re technically free to wander around the manor, the game does follow a linear approach, with specific rooms opening up after solving certain puzzles.

We do recommend having some kind of separate way to jot down discovered clues. The in-game way clues are handled isn’t very good: whenever you find a piece of relevant information for making a seedling grow, that piece is marked on the plant’s herbarium page. However, the game actually omits the relevant information from said page. Taking the postcard we mentioned earlier as an example, the herbarium page will simply say “postcard” instead of the actual location that the plant is from. Later on, when more complex puzzles present you with clues spread out over multiple rooms, having your own notes really helps with not having to backtrack because you forgot a piece of information that you’d find inside of a book.

Even if you do forgo the need to write down things, you’ll still find that your journey through Botany Manor is short-lived. Depending on how good your puzzle-solving skills are, you’ll be able to clear the game in roughly three to five hours. With how meticulously designed the game’s puzzles are, the case can certainly be made that it’s a matter of quality over quantity here, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time spent in the company of Arabella. Even so, we still have to acknowledge that the game boasts little to no replay value and that the short length isn’t reflected in the game’s RRP of €24.99/$24.99. Now, we do tend to keep value versus playtime in mind when looking at a game, but Botany Manor is one of those rare titles where it’s just so good that it doesn’t feel overpriced. Apart from the somewhat convoluted clue system, everything about the game is perfectly balanced in that it challenges your logic skills while simultaneously offering you an utterly relaxing and peaceful time. Botany Manor sits as an oasis of tranquility in an ever-increasingly hectic world, and you can’t put a price on that.


We didn’t quite expect Botany Manor to keep our attention throughout in the way that it did. The emotional story, gorgeous audiovisual presentation, and leisurely-paced puzzles all come together to form a cozy adventure that is over all too soon. The lack of replay value makes Botany Manor feel like a fleeting affair, but even that is fitting within the game’s context. The clue system can be a bit frustrating and the price point doesn’t line up with the amount of content you’re getting here, but these are the only real negative points about what is otherwise a delightful little game.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Botany Manor - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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