How to Play
In this point-and-click computer adventure, you control five adorable tree creatures that look roughly like a twig, a mushroom, a feather, a lantern and a seed pod. When you enter this imaginary tree world, you discover that the tree and its inhabitants are being attacked by evil parasites. Your five tree creatures are the tree's champions on a quest to save the tree. They move in tandem, but at times exercise unique skills such as the twig's ability to stretch out its branches or the feather's ability to flutter to out-of-the-way places.
There is no talking in the game, and there are no instructions. Clicking, observing reactions to your movements and trial-and-error are your only means of getting through this game. It's simple and refreshing.
Divided into seven chapters, the game presents players with scavenger hunts which, when completed, open the next section of the game. That description may make this game sound routine, but it is anything but commonplace. This beautifully-drawn world alternates between being whimsical and eerie, as it vibrates with creatures that are fanciful, lovely, bizarre, and sometimes frightening. As you navigate along the tree's translucent limbs pulsing with sap, you will meet spiders, bees, and snails; but you will also encounter whimsical creatures you have never seen before. Some will charm you with their burbles and snorts while others will scare you with their teeth-gnashing. Each of the over-150 locations is designed to tempt you to start clicking to see what will happen. Clicking on a dead leaf might make a new one magically appear. Touch a bump, and a flying insect might pop out.
On one level you will be tasked with finding five keys. To obtain one of these keys, you will need to interact with a grey, bird-like creature sitting on a branch surrounded by berries. When you run the computer mouse over the bird's eye, its mouth will start to open. If you keep it there, its eyes will flash and it will start to sing. Once you get it singing, other similar birds will arrive. Only when you get all of the birds singing at once will a larger bird arrive. When he joins in the song, you can scramble inside his mouth to find the hidden key. The combination of creating the music and the unexpected location of the key is what makes this game fun.
In addition to collecting things for characters you meet in the game, you will also be collecting creature cards. There are over 100 creatures for you to find and interact with enough that they reward you with their animated card. This aspect of the games encourages you to click on every new creature you encounter no matter how bizarre.
The Good and the Bad
Botanicula starts out as a uncomplicated, joyful exploration where clicking on things results in fanciful reactions. While you are occasionally chased by spider-like things, you will quickly discover that they never reach you, and you can't die. However, the farther you get into the story, this sense of carefree exploration slowly changes as the environments you investigate gets darker and the characters within more scary. At one point, you will even watch a gory puppet show where a dragon's head gets whacked off and the stump bleeds onto the stage. This disturbing scene, while short, is so out of place with the rest of this funky adventure that it is hard to fathom why it was included. The last chapter has some ship-like shooting sequences in which you can die and have to restart the section, but there is no blood.
The navigation of Botanicula starts off easy but gets more complex. Some chapters are so complicated that even with game-provided maps, it's challenging to retrace your steps to deliver a found item that is needed by another that you met earlier in the game.
On a more positive note, the game's music from Czech band DVA cocoons you with musical interludes worthy of this imaginative world. Since the creatures don't talk, many of their responses are expressed through musical sounds that you create by clicking. The game also sports an ambient sound track that makes you feel as if you are in the woods.
Botanicula is an intriguing mix of fanciful and bizarre adventuring, with both extremes capable of filling you with wonder. It's a journey worth taking, and one you will remember for quite some time because of its creativity.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.