Strange Horticulture:Plants, Puzzles and Mysteries

When it comes to Strange Horticulture, it is a breath of fresh air, or should I say scent of fresh air. After the sad passing of your uncle, you will take on the role of running and revitalizing a plant shop based in the quirky town of Undermere. The shop is dormant and lacks a range of plants, but this will not be the case for very long. I sure am no green thumb, but maybe this game can give me a glimpse into the world of horticulture.

" Turning Over A New Leaf "

Once I entered my shop, I immediately noticed it has seen better days, And i need to return it to its former glory. There were a few things on my mind about looking after this shop. Firstly there are no plants. How can you run a plant shop without any plants? And secondly I know nothing about plants, this is going to be a disaster. Luckily for me there was a book left for me, a glossary of plants. This book gives you snippets of information relating to the plants you have in the shop currently. There may not be many entries, and the book lacks depth but it is a start, that’s for sure.

The game itself feels like a hybrid between life simulation; taking on the role of running your shop, meeting locals and exploring the surroundings via a map. The second part involves puzzles, riddles, and trying to work out “what is that plant?”.

Your customers are a quirky and weird bunch of people. They will come into your shop complaining about  feeling sick, they can not sleep or a whole host of symptoms that they need help with. So as you take a glance over your book of plants, you will need to cross reference between the symptom or information the customer has given you and the book. The book contains a sketch of part of the plant, along with a minimal description that will maybe tell you, the colour or how the plant smells. This is when you put on your detective hat and try to work out the correct plant. You truly feel like you accomplished something when you get it correct.

The locals will have a lot of narrative involving strange happenings around the area, well that is when they are not complaining to you about an ailment. When you go to bed at night you keep having this weird dream involving a girl, that continues on each night.You are also giving lots of weird devices that you seemingly do not know how to work.

" World Full Of Mysteries And Occults "

They feel like something magical and powerful.You will try your hardest to work out how to use these devices as they will be needed to progress.

Along with the normal customers you also get the mysterious ones. There are two different cults you can choose to help. One of the cult lives in a nearby forest, while the other is even more cryptic and the god they worship is some plant monster. The game gives you the approach of choice matter, you decide who to help or not help. If you feel like being the caregiver shop keeper, and want to help everyone you can. Maybe you feel like not helping the sleezy lawyer that is always complaining and has nothing nice to say about you, well maybe you will “accidently” give him the wrong plant. The choice feels truly yours and all for good reason, with multiple endings to explore, you never know which one you might end up with.

The map that sits upon your desk, is full of areas to explore, but you have to solve the riddles to find the right square.

When it comes to choosing which plant to give them, you might not have the plant that they need or the one you would like to give them. You have to go explore from your trusty map, the locations of new plants will be given to you in cryptic letters you need to solve, or a tarot card that has a riddle that you got from your dreams. To work out the locations, you might have to use a device and follow a certain path, or work out a hidden code. There is so much variety when it comes to these that they don’t feel repetitive and are a core aspect of the game.

Even though you will be traveling on your map, you never leave your shop. It’s played in this 2D aspect, and everything else will be done through dialogue. The game is very narrative heavy, and you get to love your shop. While it does start off pretty bare, it will soon be flowing with lots of different specimens of plants and fungi. It gives off this charm and homely feel throughout, with a more older era vibe and the rain dripping past on your screen, you feel nice snuggled up in your shop with your cat that you can pet in between customers.

Overall the game is outstanding both visually and gameplay, it keeps you entertained for hours and time will fly by. The difficulty curve felt nice with the progression and the ramp up speed was not too much. The puzzles do feel easy to begin with but later you will find yourself sorting your plants alphabetically or in my case tagged them also with function, this was actually key when you had to remember what they did. There are a few times I felt stumped but not in a bad way, as I never got frustrated. I just re-read the information and thought outside the box.

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Review
  • Dark, Mysterious and Extremely Charming
    9

    " Strange Horticulture hits a balanced blend of puzzles and a life-sim. The narrative in the game is very in-depth and will keep you entertained with the amount of mysterious it brings. There is so much variety when it comes to plants and puzzles, you will have have some head scratching moments, but they will remain stress free. You will lose track of time in the world of Undermere "

    • Gameplay
      9
    • Narrative
      9
    • Art Direction
      10
    • Concept
      9
Game Details
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