Parents' Guide to

Strange Horticulture

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Plant-based puzzler brings subtle twist to mysteries.

Game Nintendo Switch , Windows 2022
Strange Horticulture Cover

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The unconventional brainteasers in this puzzler could grow on players as they explore this eerie and weird land full of mysterious characters and circumstances. In Strange Horticulture, you help multiple people with their problems, such as curing insomnia, indigestion, or mold. This is handled by checking out your encyclopedia of plants, examining your shelves for one that matches the description or circumstances, and passing it along to the customer. Getting things right results in new tasks, plants, or possible leads to explore in the world map for additional foliage. Selecting the wrong choice, on the other hand, provides you with dread, which will interrupt your mental sanity and prevent you from conducting business until you can restore it by piecing together a broken disc or unlocking your mind. Players also discover that there's much more going on than health issues – there's sinister plots going on, murders being committed, and possible threats to everyone's lives happening outside your shop walls, and your actions will affect or destroy the lives of some of these characters.

It's a clever twist to keep gameplay mainly to the shop, as even the "journeys" to the map to investigate clues and gather plants feels passive. But that serves to keep the focus on tracking and cataloguing your greenery (and you'll easily gain more than you need over the course of one playthrough, which adds to the challenge of properly identifying requests). It's unfortunate that your choices of plants are somewhat limited during play – if you select the wrong plant, you have to replay the selection until you get it right (along with limited dread puzzles), and there are only a few plot points where you can offer one of two choices to solve a request to affect a character's fate. Even the option you get later in the game to brew potions only happens a few times, which feels like a meaningless feature. The other issue, which is somewhat small, is that the length of the game is pretty short; you can probably fly through the game in about 10 hours, and apart from unlocking other endings, there's not a lot of variation here. These gripes aside, though, the plant focus on puzzles makes Strange Horticulture a mellow take on a dark mystery tale.

Game Details

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