What would you do if you stumbled through a portal to another world? Apart from go on an epic adventure to save your newfound friends and foil an evil villain, your main goal would probably be to get home. That’s the premise of Botanica: Earthbound, a direct follow-up to Botanica: Into the Unknown. It’s a little thin on plot, but boy does it make up for it with some killer puzzles and gripping hidden object scenes.
The strange world of Botanica is packed to the portals with strange sights, everything from wrecked ships to abandoned temples and exploding volcanoes. The core of the gameplay centers around picking up items and carrying them to different points on the map to clear obstacles out of the way. Vines covering a door you need access to? Why not try a lobster’s snippy claws? Many items you’ll use two or even three times, which fills up your small inventory space surprisingly fast. Fortunately, most of the puzzle solutions follow basic logic, but don’t be afraid to try ideas that are just outside of the norm. You never know what might work in this creepy world.
Botanica has intricate, multi-stage hidden object scenes, and they’re absolutely delightful. They begin innocently enough with a list of items at the bottom of the screen and a crowded room on top. Once you start clicking around, though, you realize there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Only a few items on the list will actually be laying in the room. The rest will need to be assembled, are hidden behind objects, or simply don’t exist yet because you haven’t opened up the sub-screen. That’s right, hidden object scenes have sub-screens. How’s that for meta?
Puzzling through hidden object scenes is an absolute joy, and when you complete the section you’ll get an item needed to progress out in the adventure portion of the world. Botanica has a lot of back and forth exploration, meaning you’ll visit and revisit areas multiple times to use new items in old places. Some folks call it backtracking, but in Botanica’s case, it feels like strong, compact game design. And besides, you don’t have to click through each screen manually. The map features easy zoom-to icons, or you can use the hint feature to fast travel to where you need to go.
Botanica doesn’t skimp on the content, but there are a couple of weaker spots in terms of presentation. Some of the artwork feels like it doesn’t quite belong, for example, and in a few places you’ll feel like sound effects have gone missing.
Honestly, this is just picking at threads. Botanica is a solid hidden object adventure with a lot of great gameplay, fantastic puzzles, and delicious mini-games, plain and simple.