Game Review #10: Ambient background music can never be this good

So in the last article, I wrote about how visually stunning Amanita Design’s game Machinarium was. And during the past few weeks, I’ve been playing their more recent game Botanicula–and it’s simply stunning.

Botanicula

Botanicula-Packshot_RGB-e1335610924932

(Paid): http://amanita-design.net/games/botanicula.html

The article about Machinarium  focused on the visual aspects of the game, and that indeed has been what Amanita Design excelled on. Botanicula is not an exception.

Incorporating computer graphics more heavily into the interface led to increased interactivity.  Animations are smoother than ever before, and there are very little details (say, floating bits of light balls) that add up to the lively atmosphere of botanic life.

Botanicula-wallpaper-1

And amazingly, those tiniest bits of detail can all interact with the mouse. While these  serve no function in the story itself, it just makes this place feel incredibly alive and breathing.

Some scenes translate into a breathtaking three-dimensional point of view. Sometimes, scenes translate into a breathtaking three-dimensional point of view.

However, it was the procedurally generated, ever-changing audio that ultimately amazed me the most.

The big-eyed guys here are the singing bugs. There are hundreds of sound-generating  creatures in this game.

The big-eyed guys here are the singing bugs. There are hundreds of sound-generating creatures in this game.

Just like a rainforest teeming with animal sounds, the world of Botanicula is also filled with innumerable sounds. Some are made by the creatures, some are droplets of water falling from the leaves, and some are just ambient ones. It’s not just one background ambient music flowing through the whole game–the music sounds different in every single point, generated by an orchestra of many different factors. And even in the same scene, the ambient audio develops as you progress along a certain puzzle.

What is also interesting is each audio file’s composition.  From bug cries to jumping sounds, a lot of them is built upon human voice. (even things like helicopter sounds!) This, in effect, makes the whole game sound like a beautiful acapella. Although…  imagining the developers sitting together in front of the microphone and crying brbrbrbbrbrbbr!! is pretty hilarious.

But what about the puzzle elements?

Confusing puzzles are the main downside to this game. It’s not as linear or logical as Machinarium’s were, and is mostly comprised of numerous fetch quests. Collecting items can be pretty tedious too, as it  involves clicking every single interactable object on screen. The aforementioned abundance of interactable creatures make this even more difficult.  Some items are so deliberately difficult to collect that it made me question the developer’s intention.

As a result, most of the time is spent aimlessly roaming around the Botanicula world searching for something that you don’t even know what.

However, looking at how much the developers took environment/ambient design into consideration, it should safe to conclude that the roaming, the exploration and the feeling of interaction itself, not the puzzle, is the key experience of this game.

Moving around the world is not frustrating at all but indeed gives you an absolutely beautiful experience. The whole game feels like a botanical garden, for the visitors to walk around and heal themselves.

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