Oh what a joy it would be to see the world like Amanita Design does. There would be no barriers and no wall of cynicism to cloud our imaginations from creating the grandest of adventures out of the most humdrum of objects. That is its gift, one that turned the life of a ramshackle tin-can robot into a heartening love story with Machinarium, and one that creates a dazzlingly imaginative adventure out of the inhabitants of a tree in Botanicula. It's nature viewed through the eyes of child and with the clarity of a macro lens. Weird and wonderful creatures fly, dance, and sing their way through a world brought to life by beautiful handcrafted visuals, engaging point-and-click puzzles, and delightful music.
Botanicula's story is as imaginative as its visuals, telling the tale of five creatures inhabiting a tree created by a falling star. It's a fine tree, one that's rich with a glowing life force, making it immensely attractive to a group of hungry parasites that seek to dine upon it. As those parasites begin their vicious devouring, the five friends find themselves thrown into a battle to save their home and the lives of its other inhabitants. But they aren't heroes; they're just creatures with noble intentions that are trying their hardest to help. Besides which, they are but an acorn, a mushroom, a twig, a seed, and a feather--hardly the most intimidating of groups to the towering, spiderlike parasites.
But like many a tale, this is a case of brains over brawn. Your adventure starts at the top of the tree. Its leaves are green, and its branches are filled with all manner of glowing fruits and sprouting mushrooms. The music is sprightly. But lying directly in your path is a bulbous fly, one that's missing the featherlike wings it needs to take off. Its painfully pathetic attempts to hover highlight your task. Indeed, one of Botanicula's strengths is its ability to guide without explicit instruction. Small animations like the barely hovering fly, visual cues like hieroglyphs etched into a branch, and audio cues like the rustling of a leaf or the chirp of a bug do a wonderful job of highlighting puzzles and solutions in subtle ways.
Clearly, then, you must venture forth and find three feathers. To find them, you must solve puzzles. Just like in Machinarium, many of the solutions lie on a single screen, or at least within a set level. There are very few fetch quests, and no long-winded dialogue trees for you to decipher, since your band of creatures speak only in simple chirps. Often it's simply a case of clicking things in the right order, figuring out the correct path to take, or interacting with objects in different ways by swinging, pushing, or squeezing them. A barking bug guards one of the feathers you seek. Your first few clicks do nothing but cause the bug to bark more. A subtle glow surrounding your creatures hints at a solution.
Through a process of trial and error you click your creatures in turn, each accompanied by the cutest of animations as they try in vain to make it past the dog but return with a squeak and an endearing quiver. Eventually you click your own feature-creature, and he sails past, picks up the feather, and leaves the barking bug with a rather perplexed look on his face. It's simple stuff at the beginning, but the joy lies in the exploration. For every click there's an accompanying animation and sound that brings a smile to your face. Snails that you poke ooze slowly back into their shells, bumblebees emerge from flowery cocoons, and amorphous blobs pull out accordions and sing in harmony with the silliest of voices.
That doesn't mean all puzzles are that simple, though--they get very clever indeed, particularly in the latter half of the game. Some tax your spatial awareness as you manoeuvre fluffy pink micro-sheep on pollen planetoids to use as springs, while others test your pattern-recognition skills as you follow a group of colourful blotches through a maze of infinite loops in the depths of the tree's roots, all while taking in some brilliantly imaginative visuals and sounds. Everything has been crafted with the utmost of care and attention--details from the tiny glowing pollen buds that slowly dim as you click them, to the giant turtle that chews menacingly on the leaves of a tiny tree paint a striking picture of a hidden world, all of which is accompanied by a brilliant collection of tunes that meld elements of jazz, indie, and big beat to create an eclectic sound that's as much John Coltrane as it is Sigur Ros.
It's a shame that your journey is a short one. A hidden collection of creature cards isn't the best incentive to go back and play through again either, particularly as the solutions to puzzles remain the same. But what a journey it is, taking you from the tops of the tree with its feather-finding quests, to a village of blobs trying to find chickens to power their helicopter, all the way down to the tree's darkest roots and firefly-infested surroundings. To play Botanicula is to peer through a microscope at hidden world and feel like you've made the greatest of discoveries: one of a place that's so overflowing with imagination and so full of wonder that only a person with a heart of stone would fail to be taken in by its charms.'