If Wordle has you staring at letters this week, Strange Horticulture will have you staring at flowers, leaves, thorns, and roots next week. In the puzzle game from developer Bad Viking, you’ve inherited a spooky little plant shop in the quaint little Victorian town of Undermere. As quirky and mysterious customers come in asking to buy plants you’ll need to crack your tome of botany knowledge, closely examine the plants in your store, and figure out exactly what your customers want based on their descriptions.
I’ve played the free demo of Strange Horticulture, and it’s delightful. You’re essentially a plant detective piecing together leafy clues. Your customer might know the name of the plant they want, so you need to find it in your book and match it with a plant on your shelf based on just a few words of description and a sketch. Some customers may not know the name of the plant but will have a few scraps of information about it, like that it has red flowers or that it’s supposed to help some specific affliction, so you’ll have to closely examine your plants and page through your book looking for a match.
This largely mirrors my experience of working in a bookstore where customers would come in with only the vaguest idea of the book they’re looking for. “I know the cover is blue,” they’d say. “Maybe the title has white lettering? And it’s about a murder in a small town.” And then off I’d go, wracking my brain for something I might have seen months ago while stocking the shelves.
There’s also a roomy map to explore as you receive clues to the location of new, undiscovered plants to add to your shop, and as you serve customers and visit far-flung locations both your collection of plants and your tome of knowledge will grow. And not everyone is looking for a plant that will help their digestion or sharpen their vision. There’s a dark and dangerous mystery unfolding while you play, and some shadowy customers will attempt to drag you deeper into it.
The demo only covers the first couple days of running your shop, and ever since I played it I’ve been eager for more. Strange Horticulture releases on Steam on January 21.