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Botany Manor review – Simply perfect puzzles

Botany Manor screenshot
Image: Balloon Studios/Whitehorn Games

Botany Manor has a very simple premise: figure out how to make 12 flowers bloom, and fill in a botany book as you go. That’s it. As simple as that sounds, though, there’s so much more to Botany Manor. And the process of figuring out how to grow those 12 flowers? It’s absolutely wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that we’d call Botany Manor one of the best puzzle games we’ve ever played.

You’ll take on the role of Arabella Greene: she’s a well to-do lady, as you can tell from her large, grand manor house and its extensive gardens. More than merely a gardener, Arabella is a very talented botanist, understanding the science behind growing plants to an impressive level. But Botany Manor is set in the 1800s, you see. And so no scholar is going to take Arabella, a woman, seriously in her studies.

That doesn’t put her off though. Arabella is determined to finish her book and send it to a publisher. And that’s where you come in. Over five chapters, you’ll scour the house for clues and figure out how to make each of the 12 remaining flowers grow. And it’s not as simple as planting them in specific weather conditions. Oh no. You’ll have to recreate sunsets of a specific time of the year, replicate a lightning storm, figure out how to get a garden bird to pollinate a seed and even a spot of morse code.

Botany Manor screenshot
Image: Balloon Studios/Whitehorn Games

We’ve had a whale of a time figuring out each of Botany Manor’s wonderful puzzles. Some are fairly straightforward: find clues, which take the form of books, objects and notes scattered around the house, and then figure out what to do with them. Others are a little more complex, and might require a few other steps first. Maybe you’ll need to find a secret passageway in the house first, for example. Or crack a coded lock in order to access a hidden room.

Related: Best puzzle games on Xbox Game Pass

Every puzzle is incredibly well designed and nothing is ever too obtuse — although that’s not to say they’re easy. We’ve eventually figured everything out by ourselves, even if we got stumped once or twice along the way. But seeing one of the flowers bloom because you confidently figured out the solution feels incredibly rewarding indeed.

This isn’t the type of puzzle game where you collect up dozens of items in your inventory. You have no inventory, in fact. Yes, there are dozens of items Arabella can interact with, but the majority of them will remain exactly where they are. Occasionally, a single item can be picked up and moved if you need it — but it’s your job to figure out where to take it. You can’t store it ’til you need it.

Botany Manor screenshot
Image: Balloon Studios/Whitehorn Games

Sometimes you might wish you could open up a record of documents and check a soil pH chart, or the temperature of a river, or how to say “attention” in Morse code (spoilers!). But without being able to pick things up, the onus is on you to decide what’s important. Making notes while you play Botany Manor is not only recommended, then, but almost necessary. And by god, do we love a game that encourages us to use pen and paper.

Of course, not everything you find in Botany Manor is a clue pointing you towards a flowering plant. There are plenty of flavour documents, simply revealing more about Arabella, her family and life in the manor house. It pays to look at everything — even if the brutal sexism of the 19th century makes you seethe. Not only will you find letters from college professors telling Arabella to stick to gardening as a hobby, but notes from her family telling her to find a husband and focus on her “duties as a woman”.

Botany Manor screenshot
Image: Balloon Studios/Whitehorn Games

But we love that Botany Manor comes with a very clear message of following your dreams. Work hard in the face of adversity and you’ll succeed — even if it seems like the whole world is against you. It’s inspiring and, even if you may simply be a player temporarily stepping into Arabella’s shoes, spurs you on to complete the game’s puzzles with gusto.

There’s not a single misstep in Botany Manor. It looks fantastic, and it’s supported by a gorgeous, if sometimes subtle, soundtrack. It’s the puzzles that take the limelight, though: they’re almost flawless in design, requiring just the amount of brainwork to complete. The perfect blend of exploration and puzzle-solving makes Botany Manor an absolute delight — and as thrilled as we were that Arabella got to finish her book, we were gutted that it meant our time with her was over.

This review of Botany Manor is based on the PC version of the game, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.

Botany Manor review - GameSpew's score

Botany Manor
10 10 0 1
Gorgeous, perfectly designed and utterly engrossing, Botany Manor is quite simply one of the best puzzle games of recent years.
Gorgeous, perfectly designed and utterly engrossing, Botany Manor is quite simply one of the best puzzle games of recent years.
10/10
Total Score

We liked...

  • Engaging and clever puzzle design
  • Gorgeous manor house to explore
  • Carries a strong message of following your dreams

We didn't like...

  • It comes to an end
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.