STAFF REVIEW of Botany Manor (Xbox One)


Monday, June 3, 2024.
by Peggy Doyle

Botany Manor Box art I love a great immersive puzzle game, being thrown into a world of solving increasingly difficult puzzles, especially if they remain interesting and grab you from the start of the game. Botany Manor, the first game from Balloon Studios, is a first-person puzzler where you get to try your hand at becoming a master botanist.

It is the late 1800's and you will explore a British mansion settled in the hills you inherited. You play as retired botanist Arabella Greene, tasked with figuring out how to grow a selection of unusual and exotic plants. Botany Manor is not a stressful game by any means, it’s a cozy and immersive sim puzzler. While there is no tutorial or hand holding, it is fairly quick to pick up what you need to do to move the game along. Explore locations as they become available to you, pick up clues, and study them to see how to cultivate each plant from seed through seedling through fully flowered adult. While the idea is simple, the process becomes increasingly difficult as you progress. While in the beginning you only need to adjust the temperature to get a plant to grow, by the end you are trying to locate the right piece of music with the appropriate beats per minute to get the seed to germinate.


Thankfully, you are never pushed for time as you look for clues as some of them are very difficult to find. Everything should be inspected, from a Morse code machine to a piece of paper with a nursery rhyme. You never know what you can interact with and what could potentially be a clue going forward. Once you find them, you also have to determine which seed they apply to as there can be multiple seeds in an area of the manor.

You have a notebook (Arabella’s Forgotten Flora herbarium) where you will assign the clues to the seed you think they correspond to, and if you get all the clues correct, it will unlock the flower in your journal. You can only move the sections of the game along once you open portions of the journal. At some points, I found myself stuck and I had to completely rethink sections to determine where I went wrong. While frustrating, there was a real sense of accomplishment once I figured out the appropriate set of clues and could check off a flower in my journal. Upon having each flower bloom, you also have the lovely gate bell ring denoting you can go to the basket by the gate and collect a key to open a new section of the manor or grounds.


As you move through the game, the puzzles become more interesting as well. You will have to use seeds to lure songbirds to feeders, climb a tower and open the shutters to create the proper air flow, even discover a hidden medieval chamber. Each puzzle felt unique and interesting.

Thankfully, the frustration was easily ignored because the game is downright beautiful. Level design, graphics, soundtrack, and effects are all woven together to transport you to the English countryside. Blue skies, brightly coloured flora, green rolling hills - if you are a fan of Bridgerton or Downton Abbey like I am, you will find it easy to fall in love with the feeling that Botany Manor presents you with.

While there is no dialogue in Botany Manor, Balloon Studios has done a wonderful job telling you a story through physical and audio clues. As you explore the manor and find the clues, you will learn more about Arabella’s family and background. Sometimes you don’t need a massive story to keep you invested or interested, and Botany Manor doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a shorter story (around three to four hours to complete) with limited replayability. This allows you to focus on the puzzles and tasks at hand. There is only the main story and no side quests to look for. If you like a smaller game to finish in an evening or two, it’s perfect. If you are looking for more, you may be disappointed. Luckily, Botany Manor is also on Xbox Game Pass, so it’s easily available if you are already a subscriber.


Botany Manor is a great little game. Charming and sweet with a nice balance of challenge and laid-back puzzle elements. Delightfully immersive due to its first-person perspective, it makes exploring the manor feel like a joy versus a chore.

Indie publisher Whitethorn Games publishes Botany Manor, and they have a reputation for working with smaller approachable titles from indie developers. If you are familiar with their catalogue, you will know that they specialize in easy-to-play relaxing games. I am a huge fan and will immediately play anything they publish as I know what I will be getting.

**Botany Manor was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10

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