Join me as I review one of the most enriching and clever indie games I have played. Strange Horticulture boasts a clever narrative from the comfort of a plant shop counter. Iceberg Interactive has knocked it out of the park with this interesting and innovative game. This game was recommended to me as it’s unique and quirky, like many other games in my Steam library.
Our tale begins in the rainy and dreary town of Undermere with the task of managing a plant shop. This sounds simple and charming, right? It would be if it didn’t involve murder, the occult, and other fascinating creepy events.
The player is greeted with numerous customers for over 16 days. Each customer will bring a letter, clue, item, or request a plant. Most of the customers add to the story. The overarching story starts with the grisly murder of the leader of a coven of witches. The remaining witches seek the players’ guidance. Alongside the witches trying to ascertain how their leader died, the local authorities and concerned townsfolk are also coming to the shop to seek guidance through plants.
Each character brings something new and exciting to the story with their requests. Without going into too much detail, the story is full of mysteries. Despite this, it would do well to get the player more involved as, most of the time, the characters are talking at you instead of the player actively being involved in the detective work.
During the game, the player also has choices with some of the customer requests. My favorite is when a customer is quite arrogant and rude. The game rewards your sinister side by ensuring this character can receive karma if the player chooses. This is by allowing the player to give the customer a deadly plant instead of the one that will cure their ailments.
I can do nothing but praise the games’ innovative gameplay. The gameplay poses itself as a series of puzzles that had my brain sufficiently teased. The player is given an encyclopedia of plants, and you must consult this to identify the plants. There is no tutorial, so everything is picked up by yourself. It’s not always visualization that’s needed to identify the plants as it involves things like reading what the plants smell, properties, and similarities to other plants are.
I truly felt at peace playing this game. I think this is why it became a time sink for me. Before I knew it, I was clocking up the hours. The soundtrack consists of a simplistic, calming tone with the background ambiance of rain. For an old soul like me, it calmed me and enhanced my playing to escape from the stress of real-life vibes.
The game is balanced with its difficulty as sometimes you face difficult, head-scratching puzzles, and next, it’s as simple as petting the cat whilst waiting for the customer. Yes, you heard me correct. There is a cat, and it can be interacted with!!
Do you ever leave your plant shop?
The answer is technically no. However, I can’t fault the game on this. The game has added a map that you may use to traverse and explore when the will-to-explore meter is full. You replenish this by watering plants, an essential chore for any plant shop. When exploring the areas you click on, it will pop up with either a “nothing is here” or a sketch with a narration. Usually, you are guided to these areas by clues. Clues are given at the end of each day or by interacting with characters.
The charming and rustic vibes the shop provides eliminates the need for a more adventure type game with physical exploration. I for one was happy to spend the game within the confines of my plant shop.
At first, I felt there were no consequences for getting the plants wrong, and then I noticed the rising dread meter. The rising dread meter increases each time you give the wrong plant to a customer. When the dread meter is full, the player must complete a puzzle to restart your progress in the game. This is a clever feature and one that I enjoyed because it helped me re-center and get back in the game.
There is not much else to discuss in terms of difficulty. I’m just glad the game poses a challenge alongside being a quaint and quirky plant shop sim.
From a personal standpoint, I would personally not enjoy replaying the game. I felt it isn’t much different from the initial playthrough except for one or two choices you could change. I can see why people would replay it if they immensely enjoyed it. However, for me, one playthrough was enough to thoroughly enjoy the game and recommend it to everyone reading Vibe.
I was extremely hyped for this game, and, after a recommendation, I went ahead and purchased it. For me, the game didn’t disappoint, and for any other lovers of mystery, occult, plants, and anything supernatural this game is a must. From the stunning soundtrack, clever puzzles, and a mysterious story you will not be disappointed.
See below my score. If you do check it out let us know in the comments.
25, Scottish, Gaming, writing and cooking 🧑🍳 🎮