Strange Horticulture review: quiet, meticulous, delightful, dark and beguiling

Ah, to be good with vegetation. Apparently it was a factor, wasn’t it, that my technology all obtained into home vegetation, particularly throughout lockdown. A good friend of mine has a positively ebullient entrance room filled with lush, inexperienced darlings which have names like Hercules. My brother-in-law, absent any actual house, has mounted glass spheres of water on his wall and grows little flowers and trailing vines from them. I, however, am a plant killer. Aside from in Unusual Horticulture, once I run a spooky and ethereal plant store in a city referred to as Undermere, in an alternate-universe model of The Lake District. There, my vegetation are blissful and peculiar, and with them I can save the world.

I can do all method of extra mundane issues in Unusual Horticulture, although. That is, in spite of everything, partly a quiet life sim about working a plant store, the place you may be greeting clients, exploring the encompassing lands utilizing a giant map, and following little clues to search out extra specimins. The opposite half is a puzzle sport, the place the puzzle is “what plant do I would like?”

Your clients will are available asking for a flower that may be a conventional present for weddings, one thing that’ll assist them sleep, or will clear up a rash. So out comes your copy of The Unusual E book Of Crops. At first, it solely has a couple of pages. Utilizing a partial illustration (possibly the form of a leaf or a cross part of a flower) and an outline which may offer you petal color or the element that the leaves are very sharp to the contact, you cross reference it in opposition to what you’ve gotten in your cabinets, and voila. It’s so satisfying and rewarding, and you start to really feel like an knowledgeable.

Day-after-day, you ding the store bell to name one other buyer ahead till it is time to shut the store. In the event you give somebody the fallacious plant you accumulate some Dread, which appears roughly approximate to ‘The Worry’, that basic consequence of a horrible hangover. An excessive amount of Dread is sport over. However every time you succeed, you get a brand new web page or two in your e-book. You additionally get extra Will To Discover, so you may unfold the world map and observe further clues – enjoyable little mini-puzzles the place you might need to cross reference instructions on a map or observe a river to its supply. Typically you may get a letter from a good friend pointing you in the direction of a mountain go simply east of a sure lake. Different instances it is a cryptic clue from a taking part in card that appears to be drawn out of your desires every evening.

For alongside the complaints of locals, Unusual Horticulture can be quietly supernatural. Your desk has a secret drawer containing unusual gadgets – some type of arkane magnifying glass, and a metallic disc inscribed with seemingly random symbols. As time goes on, you begin gettings visits from clients who’re investigating a wierd homicide. Every evening you dream the subsequent a part of the story of a lady working away from house.

A screenshot showing the area map in Strange Horticulture, an alternate version of The Lake District. They're using a magnifying glass to locate an area indicated in a letter sent to them

House is the place the vegetation is

From a participant viewpoint, you by no means depart your store in the middle of taking part in the sport, however you get descriptions of your travels within the prime proper nook, with additional useful illustrations. This helps to floor you utterly in your position as a plant knowledgeable in a store. Your adventures are type of unreal; your job taking care of your vegetation again house is much extra essential.

There is a mysterious cult residing in a forest, and a second mysterious cult who worship some form of plant-based monster. You’ll be able to select to assist totally different events with the vegetation you present, so there are a couple of totally different endings on supply. You are saving the world, however within the position of the mysterious shopkeeper who offers the hero simply what they want. Or not. Maybe your mysterious shopkeeper kinda likes the concept of the world ending. Simply as you may give an annoying lawyer a plant that may make his rash worse as an alternative of higher, maybe you may give somebody who wants resolve a plant that really makes them afraid at simply the fallacious second.

Typically that does rely upon you having the precise choice of vegetation at your disposal. In the event you’ve not been curious sufficient, or chased down all of your leads, you may not have the whole lot you want by the top of the story. Whereas your shelf of vegetation is initially fairly naked, it turns into positively overflowing with gently transferring flowers and fungi in the event you put the trouble in. And it’s totally gratifying that if you’re the form of participant who takes lots of time to color code the labels in your vegetation, and organise them first by their utilization after which alphabetically, for instance, then you’re rewarded. Because the Unusual Horticulture goes on, simply over a fortnight in sport days (or 4-ish hours in actual life), the clues to search out new vegetation turn into extra cryptic. By the top, you may be requested to only keep in mind which plant it’s that may open locks, or is an antidote for a specific poison. There is a very strong trace system in the event you get caught, but it surely’s far more enjoyable to attempt to totally inhabit being that bizarre plant fanatic within the grotty previous plant store.

A screenshot of Strange Horticulture showing the shop's wooden front desk. The player is trying to identify a plant, and has an encyclopaedia of plants open. They're examining a likely plant more closely

I feel that is what I discover most spectacular about Unusual Horticulture. It is a utterly 2D sport with hand-drawn artwork, and also you’re principally trapped in a single room with a cat for the entire sport. The setting is maybe vaguely Edwardian however principally unmoored by its strangeness. Nevertheless it’s so immersive! It is very straightforward to think about the way it feels to brush your hand over the quilt of your encyclopedia of vegetation and flip via the pages. To expertise the slight panic as a buyer approaches and also you sweep secret letters and instruments again into the hidden drawer of your desk. The light animation of all of the vegetation makes them really feel so alive. The pattering of the rain on the home windows. It will get chilly within the store, particularly within the rain. If solely I might persuade Hellebore to return and sit, purring, on my lap typically. Ah! Hey sir! Why sure, I’ve simply the factor that will help you sleep. Let me see now… Unusual Horticulture is quiet, meticulous, pleasant, darkish, and beguiling. An completely beautiful sport.

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