Whenever I think of 3D platform games, I’m always reminded of the excellent titles that were released for the N64 and the Playstation One. Games such as; Croc, Super Mario 64, Spyro, I could go on! So, what do all these have in common? Colourful worlds, memorable characters, increasing difficulty, and fanatical followers. When I hear that a publisher and developer have opened up their gaming account in this genre, I fear that they have bitten off more than they can chew. Will this be the case for Ghost Entertainment? Or will their gloriously colourful endeavour The Botanist be a resounding success and take the gaming world by storm?
Will it tick all the boxes, or fall short?
I have already highlighted 3 elements that make up a good platform title, but there are many more. Having spent a fair bit of time with this game, will I have experienced these things, or will I be left frustrated, and wanting to uninstall it? Let’s jump right in and take a finer look. The Botanist is your classic 3D platform game; you spend most of your time controlling a little Mushroom boy by the name of Bob. Bob loves his plants and researching new types of Fauna. His work is tiring, and during one of his expeditions he has a snooze to recover, and shock horror, the roots of the evil Green Queen of the Dark Forest turn his dream into a nightmare. Can you help Bob explore the new world that he lives in and awaken him from his slumber?
The game takes place over two game modes; story and speedrun. You face 8 challenging levels where you must; jump across chasms, land on moving platforms, avoid spikes and fire traps, and overcome many enemies. If you can do all these things, you will reach the flowery end goal, and progress on to the next stage.
The Story mode is self explanatory. Each level starts with a delightful cutscene that reminded me of a classic haunting fairy tale. The cinematic allows you some insight into how the tale unfolds and contains many twists and turns. All the cinematic contain no spoken dialogue, and doesn’t need to as the imagery is so powerful, and clearly explains the story. During this mode you are free to explore every section of the map, collecting mushrooms and additional lives en route. Paths will lead you to dead ends, and you will have to find magical boxes to make platforms move to forge a new way to the exit. You may worry that Bob’s life is very lonely, his friends now hate him, and he has to explore this new horrendous world alone. You do not need to be concerned, Bob finds a new ally in the form of a red dragon, he aids our hero on his quest, and can explore the world from a dragon’s-eye point of view, as well as dazing your foes with his fiery breath. The story is well designed, short, and leaves no rocks unturned. However, it’s a frustrating platformer to complete because of several gameplay mechanics, but these will be touched on later in the review.
This is for the hardcore gamers out there. Fewer lives and a direct approach allow you to challenge yourself to completing this already tough title in the quickest time possible. If you take on this mode, you will not be enjoying the scenery, you will not explore every section of the land that you reside, no, you will follow the helpful arrows all the way to the end goal in as direct a fashion as possible. This mode almost killed me, my hands and eyes failed me on many an occasion, and I was left screaming in frustration as Bob fell to his death on every stage I attempted. It’s a brutal experience, but it adds an excellent layer of replay value to an already tough title.
How does it compare to its peers?
The Botanist will not sit among the greats for this category. Not that it’s a bad game, or that it doesn’t tick the boxes for what makes up an excellent 3D platforming title. No, it simply doesn’t have that finesse that the old-school games have. All the gaming elements are serviceable, and it is enjoyable as a platform experience. Unfortunately, it has some minor issues that affect how the gameplay unfolds. Luckily, however, these can be polished out with future patches, making for a much smoother and enjoyable game to play.
The world that you explore is as vivid as those early console generation titles. Bright colours and bold shapes await anyone that takes on this title. The aforementioned cutscenes are fantastic, and it is a treat to observe them. The quality can’t be classed as AAA rated, but for a first attempt Ghost Entertainment has done a fantastic job. However, where there is praise, there can also be constructive criticism. There are issues with catching, and ghosting through plants and items, you will get stuck on the scenery, and more importantly Bob’s mushroom head is too heavy as you can’t look up or down. The developers do need to add this ability, as the world is lovely to look at, and unless you have your dragon friend available, you never get to see the full picture.
The audio is both brilliant and annoying. The music is whimsical and follows on from the fairy tale theme. The light hearted nature of the music was a joy to listen to and matched the theme perfectly. The greatness of the music was impacted by the constant noise of Bob’s voice as you completed any task. His shrill tone of “huh” and “yah” drove me to the point of wanting to make him jump off a cliff. I’m hoping that this gets reduced in future updates, as this will make him slightly less annoying, and will improve the audio greatly.
The control system works particularly well, even if some buttons are mapped to several actions. The dragon and Bob share the controls between them, so you will check the control settings just to make sure you know exactly what you have to do. Accuracy is a must when jumping on the tiny platforms, and fortunately there were no latency issues on the inputs. In its current build you can only use mouse and keyboard, but it would be nice if full controller support were to be added at a later date.
Like its peers, will you be desperate to play this one again?
With two game modes to experience, 8 levels that must be completed to finish a run through, and some challenging achievements to unlock, there is plenty to make you come back for more. The story mode gives you lots to see and collect, and the speedrun section is a hardcore challenge that will push even the greatest of players to their limits. At £3.99 on Steam, this represents great value for money.
Though it doesn’t fall into the category of greatness like many of the much loved 3D platform titles, this one is perfectly serviceable, and will fill up many hours of your time. I know that Ghost Entertainment is working on this as an active project, so I expect it to be more polished, and to have additional content added at some point. Do I recommend that you buy this and try it? I do! https://store.steampowered.com/app/1240270/The_Botanist/ A great first attempt from this new company, that is worth having in your library to pick up and play on a casual basis. Can you help Bob awake from his nightmare before it’s too late? Grab a copy of the game and see if you can do so.