Botany Manor Review – Budding Puzzles

Image Credit: Balloon Studios.

After playing the demo for Botany Manor from Balloon Studios a few months back, I was taken by the game’s premise, puzzle structure, and peaceful vibe. Set in 1890, Arabella Greene is a retired Botanist who has returned to her stately family home after many years away.

Arabella is compiling a herbarium of rare plants with plans to document their unique properties and growth requirements. Unfortunately for Arabella, she doesn’t seem to know how any of these plants actually grow, nor how to get into any areas of her massive house.

The opening chapter of the game remains the same. Beginning in the greenhouse, I look around for correspondence and my empty herbarium, waiting to be filled with delicious plant-based knowledge. It serves as a good primer to the myriad of clues and environmental storytelling devices that l would encounter throughout the rest of my horticultural bottle episode.

Botany Manor

Stepping out into the conservatory revealed a room cloaked in smog. Investigating the surroundings revealed seeds for a Windmill plant and a newspaper with a headline about the smog problem blanketing the area. Luckily, the Windmill plant can filter and remove smog, so I can figure out how to get it to grow. Creating the right conditions for a plant to grow requires finding all the clues in the surrounding area. Documents like temperature charts, windspeed recordings, and letters from friends from around the world are just a few of the clues found throughout the game.

Botany Manor conservatory
Image Credit: Balloon Studios.

Once a clue has been found, you can place it in the herbarium under the entry for that plant. For example, looking around the conservatory, I found a temperature chart on the whiteboard detailing the temperature plants from different regions needed to thrive. After collecting a few more clues and recording them, I could bloom the Windmill plant, clear the smog, and exit to the expansive grounds of the manor.

Botany Manor Is An Incredibly Relaxing Experience

Wandering around the grounds revealed that basically everything else was still locked off to me. There is one exception: the gatehouse. This is where I receive deliveries and the main entrance of the house. Strangely, my house is locked up, and I don’t have any keys. It’s also quite odd that a massive dead tree in the middle of my ground floor is blocking off an upstairs room. I’m sure I’ll get to that later.

Botany Manor apple chart
Image Credit: Balloon Studios.

As you progress through each chapter in the herbarium, there are more and more unusual plants to uncover with increasingly complex growth requirements to fulfill. Additionally, there is an increasing number of clues to discover. Once later chapters are reached, you get clues for multiple plants and have to figure out which clues are for which seed. The herbarium entry will tell you if you have discovered all the clues. You can reset clues if you have put them under the wrong plant. However, figuring out which document relates to which seed is never that difficult. I got through the game only placing two clues in the wrong spots.

Botany Manor’s Message Is Super Relevant Today

The documents and correspondence scattered around the manor reveal more of Arabella’s history the further into the house you go. Arabella has been consistently belittled and dissuaded from her chosen career because she is a woman. She receives numerous condescending letters from all sorts of men. They include men in her profession, family, and friends, all telling her that women aren’t allowed.

They say that her scientific pursuits are not ladylike and that she should publish her work under her uncle’s name. Have you ever been told that you don’t belong somewhere because of your gender? Or are you less than someone else because of how you are supposed to present yourself according to “traditional” gender roles?

Gender discrimination still exists now, and considering the constant threat of a 300-year-old white man taking away your human rights because you are not a 300-year-old white man. The story of Arabella’s experience echoes the experiences of so many women and non-binary and transgender people today, every day, and across almost every industry. Listen, I know this is a puzzle game about making weirdo plants grow. It is also about this woman’s persistence to do what she loves in the face of everyone telling her she isn’t allowed to.


Botany Manor
Image Credit: Balloon Studios.

I love the peaceful walking sim feel of the game. I also love plants, despite their innumerable corpses around my house suggesting otherwise. The idea of semi-supernatural plants that need vaguely outrageous conditions to bloom is wonderful. The puzzles aren’t too difficult; instead, they are quite fun to solve. It’s almost impossible to miss clues as you are almost on rails exploring the manor. My biggest difficulty in solving one was related to the house and not even the plants.

Botany Manor Is Sadly Not Without Some Frustrations

There is one major aspect of the game that I actively dislike, though. There is no way to look at documents and clues after you have collected them unless you directly go back to them. No log or journal system collates the information. Instead, the clues you find remain where they were first found. I am someone who learns by doing while struggling with ADHD. Recalling wind speeds relating to mountain regions or window shutter positions is extremely difficult. How do I solve this problem? Simple: by taking pictures or screenshots of things. Does this defeat the object of a puzzle game? Debatable, but if I have already found the information to solve a puzzle and put together how to use it, I should be able to reference it without having to backtrack, only to forget it again when I return.

Botany Manor plant growth
Image Credit: Balloon Studios.

To emphasize my point, I played the demo a few months ago. I could remember what to do since it was the same as the initial chapter, and I had already completed it. I didn’t even need the clues. New things? Short-term working memory? Not so good. I could probably go back and replay the game now without needing any clues apart from a few numbers. Brains are different. This won’t be an issue for some people, but after discussing it with several other ADHD-afflicted gamers, we all agreed it would be beneficial to have a way to access documents on the go. I’ve always struggled with short-term working memory. I write something down or do it once; it’s almost always there forever. Having this feature in-game would have been nice. 

ADHD brains are hyper-aware of everything in their surroundings. That means information like lists of temperatures, regions, and wind speed aren’t sticking for most of us. I can digest the meaning of the words and what that means puzzle solution-wise. The specifics, however, are not easily retainable. I need references for the minutiae and dossiers for details. 

Wrapping Up

Despite this, I enjoyed Botany Manor. It isn’t a long experience, but it is interesting and fun. I love the unique designs of the plants and their growth requirements. It was great to learn more about Arabella and her struggle to be taken seriously in her chosen field because of her gender. The message is something many of us still relate to today.

It’s still weird, though, that she doesn’t have any keys to her house.

Botany Manor is out April 9 on Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PS5.

Botany Manor Review – Budding Puzzles
Underneath Botany Manor's charming puzzles is a game with an important message on gender stereotypes that's still relevant today.
Relaxing gameplay.
Interesting story and puzzles.
Unique plants and growing conditions.
No way to access clues on the move, resulting in much backtracking.
The story, while interesting, feels thin and almost like an afterthought.
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Written by Emma Oakman

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