Reviews - Updated on March 26, 2022

Games that take place in the same room are able to immerse in their atmosphere abruptly blockbusters with a variety of locations. Suffice it to recall Papers, Please – already a legendary border guard simulator that has spawned several imitators. The novelty Strange Horticulture is reminiscent of the Lucas Pope classic, but does not copy it completely, but offers fresh, interesting ideas.

Plant please!

The action takes place in the town of Undermere, on one of the streets of which the Mysterious Plants store is located. The protagonist inherited the store from his late uncle, and he will have to understand the intricacies of the flora together with the player.

The screen immediately shows everything that is useful in the difficult work of a merchant. Upstairs are shelves with plants, where at first there are not very many goods. To the right of them is a window where buyers will appear. And below is a large table with a drawer. Inside there is a map, a magnifying glass, all sorts of notes and, most importantly, an encyclopedia. Some plants have already been listed there, or rather, their names, short descriptions and simple images. The further you go through the game, the more pages are filled.

Strange Horticulture: Обзор

According to such drawings, it will be difficult to find the right plants. It’s good to have descriptions.

Since the goods in the store are magical, visitors sometimes come for them for unusual reasons. For example, someone hears muffled voices on the top floor and wants to eat something that will improve their hearing. There are other reasons – one wants to buy “for work” grass, which, judging by the description, helps with heartburn, and the other is preparing for death and buying flowers for his grave. The locals are eccentric – there are even cultists here.

In most cases, the main character immediately understands what the buyer wants, even if he does not pronounce the name of the plant. Our task is to open the encyclopedia, find the right page and study it. Sometimes they will directly write there that such and such a plant has light blue flowers or oblong leaves. Sometimes this can only be found in the image, and there are no descriptions in the text. In such situations, it is impossible to sell a product to a customer that is not suitable for his needs – this will be counted as a mistake, and after three misses, you will be forced to complete an easy mini-game and returned back to the store, giving you another chance.

Strange Horticulture: Обзор

The client will wait – there are more important things to do.

It also happens that the buyer does not know what exactly he needs. In some cases, he offers a choice of two plants – it is advisable for you to re-read both his complaints and descriptions in the encyclopedia. Sometimes the name is not known at all – you just need to find a suitable product using a couple of phrases. Absolutely incorrect comparison, but at such moments, for some reason, I recall Return of the Obra Dinn, where you had to come to conclusions with the help of evidence. Here, every successful guess evokes the same feeling of joy.

Busy working days

However, Strange Horticulture is not limited to this – it throws up even more mysteries. The same card in the box will come in handy more than once or twice. Either the visitor will hand the player a note, then tips will appear in the breaks between working days – both there and there are descriptions of places where new plants can be found. All this cannot be ignored, as customers quickly begin to come for these exotic goods.

However, the character in the game itself does not leave the store – you just choose one of the many points, and then read a short story about the hero’s adventures. It is designed strangely: a client comes in, you click on the map, in a separate window it is written how you climbed a mountain or explored a cave, and after all this, the buyer is still standing and waiting for his goods. It’s even weirder that some locations require certain plants (for example, to become invisible), and you just take them from the shelf. But these are small things that do not spoil the impression.

Strange Horticulture: Обзор

There are many locations, and sometimes you won’t find the right one right away.

What I liked most about Strange Horticulture was the complete lack of timers. Clients are not in a hurry or in a hurry, there are no urgent tasks, you don’t even need to water the flowers – even though there is a watering can, it is needed only so that the character can quickly go on the next outing. Buyers will come exactly as much as the developers intended. So if you’ve been messing around with a client looking for an herb for a headache for several minutes, you don’t need to worry about the queue or the length of the working day – there are not even hours.

This allows you to play the game at your preferred pace and adds points to the atmosphere – when the collection of plants amounts to dozens of specimens, you approach each client with special attention, feeling like a detective and a professional botanist at the same time. The most ingenious solution in this game is the tag system. It would be too easy if, after guessing the plant, the game would write its name directly on the pot, and here they came up with a more interesting mechanic – you write the names yourself. Attach a tag, choose its color and type words on the keyboard. You can also arrange the plants on the shelves as you like. Thanks to this, over time, you begin to treat your collection with great love.

The process of filling the tags looks like this.

What’s most impressive is the ability of the developers to offer a variety of gameplay, despite restrictions like one location and not much changing interface. The same visitors come several times, and it is fascinating to follow their stories: who sees what dreams, who communicates with spirits, what terrible events take place outside the store. In parallel with this, the game brilliantly alternates mechanics: looking for a plant either by name or by description, trying to find a place on the map either by text prompts or by a schematic image. And in the second half of the game, alchemy is added to this. There is no time to be bored, and I want the game to never end. And if you get stuck, then tips are always available on the right side of the screen.

All this is connected with the story, which is interesting for the possibility of influencing the ending. Reading the local dialogues, descriptions and notes while traveling is a pleasure (I immediately remember In Other Waters, which I adore), and sometimes I have to make decisions. Someone will warn you about the imminent visit of a person and offer to give him the wrong herb that he asks for. Someone will invite you to their community, and if you agree, you will need to come to the specified place and put a plant there. So Strange Horticulture has replay value, and you definitely want to play it again.

Strange Horticulture: Обзор

Thanks for the offer, we’ll call you back.

2022 is just gaining momentum, and pleasant surprises are already beginning to appear. Although few people have probably heard of Strange Horticulture, I would recommend it to all lovers of quality puzzles and detective stories. It will not seem difficult or tricky, but it will bring a ton of pleasure – both in the quality of execution, and in the creative approach to using non-standard mechanics, and in a hell of a pleasant atmosphere.

Pros: great atmosphere; nice design and charming visual style; you watch the life of the characters not without interest, and decisions along the plot allow you to influence their fate; simple but exciting puzzles at every turn; quite diverse gameplay, despite a small number of mechanics.

Cons: Poor soundtrack.

Đánh giá Star
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