Botany Manor review for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PC
Also on: Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Whitethorn Games
Developer: Balloon Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

It’s probably just reflective of the games I play, but sometimes it feels like a lot of First-Person Puzzlers are all the same. Which is to say: they all borrow liberally from Portal/Portal 2, usually featuring colour-coded switches to flick, a vaguely post-apocalyptic scenario, and a sassy robot providing commentary. While there are surely plenty of exceptions that I’m sure I’m forgetting, it makes it easy to feel a little cynical about the genre as a whole.

This is a big part of what makes Botany Manor such a breath of fresh air – literally. There are no robots in sight, nor does it feature a vaguely foreboding atmosphere. Rather, it’s just you in a gorgeous Victorian manner, growing plants and exploring the grounds.

You may read that and think of how unhurried and low-stakes that may be, and…well, it is. But that’s by design. It’s not a game where you’re trying to save the world, but rather one where the point is to slow down, look around your surroundings, and figure out how to make plants grow. That means you spend a whole lot of time in Botany Manor reading every scrap of paper you come across, looking for clues that you can put together in a way that will allow your flowers to bloom.

There’s a story that’s pushing things (gently) along, of course. You’re playing as an 1890s botanist named Arabella Greene trying to finish your book, Forgotten Flora. To that end the titular manner happens to be full of crazy plants that need your care and attention to make them grow.

Like I said, it’s low-stakes. But it’s also pretty enjoyable. It’s a game that doesn’t just make you search for clues, it also makes you read them closely and makes you think about how they all fit together. While the keys to growing some of the plants early on seem obvious enough, the closer you get to the end, the more you need to think creatively – and, not coincidentally, the more rewarding the game feels.

Mind you, the biggest reward is just getting to explore more and more of this gorgeous manor, since it’s so packed full of interesting visuals and fascinating clues. While you’re not going to get lost in it (since this is a pretty linear game), you’ll wish you could, and you’ll probably be a little sad when the game finishes all-too-soon.

But leaving you wanting more and making you feel good about what you just played are two hallmarks of a very good game – which Botany Manor undeniably is. It’s a relaxing puzzler that doesn’t allow being “cozy” to get in the way of challenging you just enough. If you’re tired of puzzlers that all feel like they’re chasing after a game that almost perfected the genre more than a decade ago, this will be a very pleasant change of pace.

Whitethorn Games provided us with a Botany Manor PC code for review purposes.

Grade: 8.5