Here To Water The Plants And Chew Bubblegum!
HIGH A unique plant shop concept.
LOW The gameplay loop could have used some more finesse.
WTF Where are the Little Shop of Horrors references?
Running a plants and flowers shop isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if one lives in a town full of Lovecraftian horrors that go bump into the night. Bad Viking’s adventure title Strange Horticulture does indeed play at first like a straightforward shop sim, so if this is something one has always dreamed of, it’s here. However, there’s a bit more to it than that…
The game takes place in our store with a fixed view where it’s possible to click on various points of interest to interact with them — click the door to greet customers, the window display to select a plant, a book to check out the various features of each plant, and so on.
The overall story involves finding out what is going on with the shop, and the narrative will indeed involve demons and witchcraft, but it’s mostly with a ‘light horror’ vibe — nothing too gruesome.
The bulk of our daily routine will consist of trying to identify, with relative certainty, what plants our customers wish for. Usually, we are given a generic description of what the client wants — what it smells like, or what the leaves are shaped like — and we are left on our own to find the plants. This is the main gameplay loop and players will either find it quite relaxing or intensely boring, depending on one’s tolerance for slow-paced puzzlers.
As things progress, the player will read up on more clues and characteristics of each plant and use that information to choose the right one to keep the customers happy. For example, one plant might have hallucinogenic effects, so giving that to someone who can’t sleep might have some serious (un)intended consequences… A good shop owner will steer hat person towards something more appropriate.
Oddly, the clues are sometimes not be enough to pinpoint a single plant, so it will end up being a bit of a guessing game between two or three similar species. For a puzzler, this lack of specificity feels unsatisfying. Picking the wrong plant will make the customer unhappy, which will ramp up our stress. Stressed players will need to calm down, otherwise they cannot manage the shop.
Our shifts in the shop are usually punctuated by story events and some occasional downtime to either rest or pick up some new exotic variety to sell — our stock on hand starts out quite limited, so it’s not long before the ‘adventure’ part of Strange Horticulture kicks in.
Armed with a map (and a pretty huge one, at that) we’ll have to hunt down more plants. Again, this will be a matter of using clues to their whereabouts to decide where to go ‘hunting’, but it works mostly the same as the main gameplay loop — use hints to try and guess the right place to look.
While the gameplay is simple and the core loop of identifying plants and making customers happy might be too repetitive overall, Bad Viking’s slow-burn title might end up feeding a green thumb that some players didn’t even know they had.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Bad Viking and published by Iceberg Interactive. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is not rated by the ESRB, but it does not seem to contain salty language nor violence of any kind. There is a foreboding atmosphere and some horror references , so it will probably be better suited to a young teen audience at least.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not feature spoken dialogue. The text’s font can be simplified for easier viewing, but there are no options to resize it. (See examples above.) There are no audio cues necessary for play. In my view, the game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game is controlled entirely with the mouse with some additional keyboard shortcuts. It is not possible to remap the controls.