NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A deeply engrossing puzzle game about identifying plants and solving mysteries.
Developer: Bad Viking
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Reviewed on: RTX 2080, Intel i7-9700K , 16GB RAM Multiplayer: No
Link: Official site
Strange Horticulture is the best detective game I’ve played in years, and it’s mostly about staring at plants. As the new owner of a small shop in a quaint Victorian town, I’ve only got three things: a small collection of unusual and unidentified plants, an aging botany book with a handful of entries, and my wits. With them I manage to solve dozens of little mysteries, untangle a few major ones, and save the world.
Then I played through it again and didn’t save the world—but I did unleash an unspeakable horror upon it. Also, this one time? I straight-up murdered a guy with plants because he was a little bit rude.
Strange Horticulture takes place almost entirely behind the counter of the plant shop, as each day customers visit one by one. Sometimes they know the name of the plant they’re looking for, but usually they only have a few small details—they know it has red flowers, or that it cures a stomach ailment, or that it’s a nice decorative plant for a wedding. Occasionally they have the name wrong, or only know the latin term for it. Sometimes the lack of information is actually a clue: a guy who can’t remember anything about the plant he’s looking for, or even why he’s in your shop at all, might be after an herb that will improve his memory.
Using the few details each customer gives me, I look through the plants on my shelf, dragging them onto my desk for a closer examination. Then I flip through the pages in my botany book, which contains plant names, drawings, and descriptions, to try to figure out which plant to give my current customer. Every person who enters my shop presents me with a tiny little mystery, and thanks to the beautiful and gently animated plants, well-illustrated drawings, and elaborate descriptions in my botany book, they’re always a pleasure to solve. When I’ve made my best guess I hand the customer a plant, and the game tells me if I’m right or wrong.
(Image credit: Bad Viking)
While the plants and their identifications don’t change in subsequent playthroughs, there are different alchemical concoctions to brew depending on your choices and the fate of the characters vary greatly. I’ve fully enjoyed each playthrough, and I plan to play again. I’m fairly obsessed with Strange Horticulture and I want to discover every single ending there is. That’s what a good detective does.
And while I love the main storyline of witchcraft and demons and obsessed cultists, I’m mostly just happy to study all those beautiful flowers and herbs and mushrooms, flip through my growing book of plants, and affix bright little labels to everything I’ve correctly identified. Maybe people think I’m just a small plant shop owner solving puzzles. But I know the truth. I’m the world’s greatest plant detective. And you really shouldn’t be rude to me.