Botany Manor Review - A Beautiful Dream that Ends Too Soon

Botany manor is everything I like in a game. It’s pretty original, it’s cohesive, it’s clearly the product of a singular vision shared by the whole team. Plus, it’s all about solving puzzles and doing some light detective work. All of that packaged in a gorgeous, pastoral atmosphere of a cozy game (I love how that’s now a genre of its own, by the way). It could not be more perfect for me, and I savored every moment I spent exploring the manor and growing fairy-tale-like plants. I recommend it very highly, except for one pretty big caveat – at the end of it all, I was left wanting more, and not in a good way.

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botany manor review a beautiful dream that ends too soon
Botany Manor Review – A Beautiful Dream that Ends Too Soon

Presentation – Dream a Little Dream

Along with the puzzles, presentation is Botany Manor’s forte. From the gardens and orchards, with a beautiful babbling brook just outside, to the inside of the manor, everything is a delight for the eyes and ears. The game doesn’t go for realism as far as its visuals go. Instead, it opts for a more fantastical, simplified look, adding a pleasant and dreamlike feel. And yet, I couldn’t help but be sucked into the world. I could almost smell the flowers and trees, or the dust and books and warm air of the library.

The music and sound design are similarly gorgeous and lush. There are many times when the music leaves you alone for a long while, letting you absorb the sounds of your environment. Birds chirping, the wind gently blowing through the foliage, your own footsteps, etc. But as you start solving a puzzle, it comes back in, building to a gentle yet effective crescendo when you’re successful. It’s a wonderful experience from beginning to end. However, I would have greatly appreciated actually hearing some voice acting, if only from our main character.

We are going to put the story in here, too. Botany Manor’s narrative revolves around discovering the past of our protagonist, Arabella Greene. Specifically, her contributions to botany and how she keeps getting spurned by the male-dominated academic circles in the late nineteenth century. Including, but not limited to, her colleague taking credit for her discovery. This is where I give Botany Manor a lot of credit. For one, this is not a subject you see tackled in video games much. If anything, I wish it went into more detail. Also, how often do you get to play as a middle-aged English lady? If only the game did more to make us feel like we were in Arabella’s shoes. But what it does do, Botany Manor does well.

presentation dream a little dream botany manor

Gameplay – Arabella Greene, Plant Detective

At its heart, Botany Manor is a puzzle game with detective game elements. What do I mean by that? Well, in order to grow each plant, you have to provide it with the exact right conditions. And to do that, you need to search the manor or clues that will explain what you need to do. The catch is that you won’t always know which clue goes for which plant, and you usually have at least two you have to figure out. That’s where the detective part comes in.

Once you have found all the clues for a plant (or at least enough of them to know what you’re doing), you can then proceed to construct the necessary conditions. This is done by solving an environmental puzzle, and these are usually not that difficult. The main “challenge” comes from the fact that you cannot review the clues in full through your journal (aka the Herbarium). Instead, if you want to reread a document, you have to go back. Admittedly, that can get slightly frustrating at times, but here’s the thing – it was my fault for not reading carefully. Botany Manor does everything it can to explain that it wants you to slow down and do everything methodically. And I failed to do that. I tried to rush through some parts, and I shouldn’t have.

In terms of puzzle design, I cannot praise it enough, both in the clue-gathering and the actual solving part. They are never too difficult, so long as you read carefully. What I love about them most is how perfectly they work with the rest of the game. For one, they take you through the manor and help you uncover more of Arabella’s past. Secondly, the plants get more and more fantastical as you go, which keeps adding to the atmosphere of a pleasant dream.

A special mention has to go to the sit down mechanic. Every time you see a chair, or recliner, or bench, or whatever, you can approach it and sit down. And just, kinda… look around and absorb. And the music will accommodate you by turning pensive. It does nothing more, as far as I know. And yet, it’s the perfect mechanic that describes Botany Manor in one action.

botany manor puzzle

Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

And here, unfortunately, is the one major flaw of Botany Manor – in my opinion, it’s just way too short. Even with taking my time to enjoy and savor the surroundings, even with having to backtrack a few times to solve some of the more difficult puzzles, I beat the game in about three hours. Now, a short length in a puzzle game is not necessarily an instant minus. Lest we forget, you can beat Portal in about two and a half hours. It’s important to not overstay one’s welcome, after all.

So why do I still feel like I’ve read two thirds of a book and found the last third missing? I think it’s a matter of pacing. Portal goes at a fairly quick clip, building up to a climactic boss fight and taking you through a wacky sci-fi story. In contrast, Botany Manor insists that you take it slow. The story has no climax, even though it could have, like by growing that ever-elusive hooded orchid. There is a payoff, and it is good, but no emotional climax. Moreover, the puzzles in Portal can be solved in several ways, so there’s some replayability. There’s only one solution to each puzzle in Botany Manor, so there’s not much point in playing it again.

I don’t know, am I missing something? Is there a hidden part of the game that I overlooked somehow? I tried my best to comb every single square foot of the manor and its grounds, If the devs hid a bunch of the game somewhere, I sure would love to know about it, because it will absolutely affect my final judgement.

manor interior

Final Thoughts

Botany Manor has a lot going for it. Like I’ve said, it’s unique in many ways. The choice to make a protagonist a middle-aged woman from the end of the nineteenth century, trying to fight her way into academia… it’s brilliant. The visuals, music and everything else in the presentation is beautiful. The puzzles are fun and engaging, but never frustrating. And all you have to do is figure out how grow beautiful flowers. No pressure to save the world or whatever. All you need to do is relax, slowly pore over the different clues, and figure out what to do from there. It’s a delight, and everybody should play it at some point, if for no other reason, then to experience a very atypical video game narrative.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much time I can spend sitting on a virtual bench and admiring the pretty trees, trying to wring out a few more minutes out of the experience. Pretty soon, I’ll realize that I could just go to a park and do the same thing, and that will be a more enjoyable feeling. On Xbox, Botany Manor is priced at twenty-five dollars. Contrast that with, say, Return of the Obra Dinn, the best detective game I’ve ever played. It takes about eight hours to beat, it’s a ton of fun, the artstyle is really cool and the story is awesome. And it costs twenty bucks. So, yeah. Due to the really brief length alone, Botany Manor falls just short (pun intended) of being something truly extraordinary.

final thoughts botany manor

Botany Manor comes out on April 9th on Xbox, Steam and the Nintendo Switch. Review copy provided by publisher.



  • The visuals are gorgeous and lush.
  • The sound design is exquisite.
  • The puzzles are a lot of fun and just the right difficulty to never be frustrating.


  • It is just way too short.
  • I wish we learned more about Arabella’s story, with maybe some voice acting.
Review platform: PC
Developed by: Balloon Studios
Published by: Whitethorn Games
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Author JoeTheBard profile picture
A language teacher and video game enthusiast turned rogue, Joe is on a quest to become the ultimate gaming journalist. This is somewhat hampered by his belief that the golden age of gaming ended with the PlayStation One, but he doesn't let that stop him. His favorite games include Soul Reaver and Undertale. Other interests are D'n'D, dad rock, complaining about movies, and being the self-appointed office funny man, which nobody else agrees with.