Botany Manor Review | Xbox Series X

Cozy just got a whole new meaning with the inclusion of strange plants and helping them grow.

By R3GR3T, Posted 30 May 2024

Just as you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to puzzle games, that rare but new gem pops up and it absolutely blows you away with how it can redefine a genre. Well, Balloon Studios, the guilty party behind the latest game to cause a good stir in the puzzle genre. Founded in roughly 2021, this studio’s main aim is to create games that can appeal to underrepresented audiences through welcoming scenes and historical worlds. Now, look no further because even though this is their first release, Balloon Studios definitely hit the nail on the head with Botany Manor which released on 9 April.


Botany Manor, Review, Screenshots, Puzzle, Cinematic, Cozy, NoobFeed
 

Botany Manor doesn’t exactly play like your typical puzzle release though, so there’s no over-the-top horror tropes or drawn-out mystery. It’s more a cozy adventure in the world of a retired botanist in the 1800’s, and as can be expected, it’s far from an easy time during that era. However, while taking on the role of Arabella Greene, you’ll essentially have to help her put together her masterwork in writing on several strange plants and how to tend to them. Yes, it sounds a bit dry but just sit tight, there’s a lot more to this story adventure than you think.

Your adventure starts out in a small pottery room with an empty book and a note from your prospective publisher. The book in question is called Forgotten Flora, it’s an herbarium of sorts where you’ll be piecing together the various clues and ideas for the strange plants you’ll encounter throughout Botany Manor. Unfortunately, you’ll literally start with nothing but some simple curiosity and you’ll need to explore as you go to make any form of progress. Now, your first flower is will be an easy one but it’ll also give you a taste of what’s to come as you piece the clues together to create the right growing conditions on your adventure.

Your first puzzle with start like all the others in Botany Manor, with a mix of clues and a pack of seeds. However, you can’t just stick the seed in some ground and expect to grow, that would be boring… Instead, you’ll need to grab a pot, some potting soil and water for your new seed to grow, but getting your new flower to bloom is where the real fun begins. Throughout the manor, you’ll find random notes, old photos, and many other types of clues or lore, it’ll be up to you to piece everything together using the Herbarium and figure out what each specific flower needs. Some flowers are simple only need some heat, while others need some extra growing conditions like adding rust to the water.


Botany Manor, Review, Screenshots, Puzzle, Cinematic, Cozy, NoobFeed
 

So, the first thing to keep in mind when exploring Botany Manor is that you won’t be able to explore the whole manor in one shot. Yes, yes, forcibly slowing down exploration is still a thing in this day and age but it’s a definite must have in most puzzle releases. The reason behind this is to maintain a good flow of progression between the chapters as you solve each new puzzle. Luckily, you’ll never have to travel far as each new area you unlock will usually also have everything you need for your current flower.

What sets Botany Manor apart from other puzzle releases is how everything progresses, at its core, it’s built to be a cosy puzzle game with a lot of heart and some interesting quirks. Building the entire game around an 1800’s manor was a great call and the same can be said about how the historical accuracy matches, the best example would be the rather mythical ‘Priest Holes’ that were used to hide priests during the 1500’s. This is probably a random piece of trivia but there are technically still many buildings out in the real world with undiscovered Priest Holes because only the original architect and owners would know about their locations.

Now, with several mysteries behind some of the odd flowers figured out, you’ll likely need to put them somewhere. Well… You’ll have a massive manor and nearly endless space to place your new flowers for the world to see. The only caveat to this nifty feature is that you’ll have limited pots, this could be due to the game engine having a limit on assets or possibly a limit set by the developer. However, on a rough estimate, you’ll likely be able to cover a good chunk of a land or an entire room in plants if you gather up all the pots.


Botany Manor, Review, Screenshots, Puzzle, Cinematic, Cozy, NoobFeed
 

Botany Manor isn’t just a constant grind to figure out how to help the various flowers bloom though, there is a story of sorts as well where you get to learn more about the people in Arabella’s. For instance: her grandmother was also an accomplished botanist but not quite recognized due to the fact that woman was seen as lesser during those times. Regardless, her research still helps you along the way… Another example would be of her sister who seems to be constantly traveling around and somewhat serving as a reminder of good times from the past through her letters. The world around Botany Manor will constantly keep expanded as your access to the manor expands.

On the visual front, Botany Manor was never designed with realistic visuals in mind or over the top texturing, it instead relies more on a semi low-poly approach while maintaining finer details on things that really matter. This isn’t to say that the world in Botany Manor isn’t worth looking at though, it’s quite the opposite and it’s that simple design method that carries its own unique beauty in the garden and overall design of the manor itself.

No cozy puzzle release would ever be complete with some background music to match and maybe even the odd sound effect to drive a relaxed point home, and Botany Manor does an excellent job with background music. Once again, it’s very heavily aimed at being a nice and relaxed puzzler with great ambience to match as you explore and the background music is absolutely stunning to listen to. The only thing that might take things a step further would be some voiceovers for the many letters Arabella has around the manor.


Botany Manor, Review, Screenshots, Puzzle, Cinematic, Cozy, NoobFeed
 

Overall, Botany Manor is definitely a must-play for anybody who enjoys a little brain-scratching through puzzles but also for anybody who enjoys simplicity’s strength. Between the relaxed environments and the unique flowers and their odd growing conditions, there’s never really a dull moment to be had as you explore. Unfortunately, not everybody will take an interest in the game’s simple visual style but Balloon Studios hit the mark with aiming for their specific audiences while making a very appealing release.
 

Jay Claassen (@R3GR3T_3NVY)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Botany Manor

90/100

Platform(s): PC, XBSX, Switch
Publisher(s): Whitethorn Games
Developer(s): Balloon Studios
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Puzzle, Cinematic
Release Date: 2024-04-09

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