Strange Horticulture review – the enjoyably shady business of botanicals

In Strange Horticulture you enter the tangy murk of a rare plant shop of the same name, inherited from your recently deceased uncle. It’s in Undermere, a fictionalised version of Windermere in the Lake District. A few specimens – all fictitious but botanically believable – line the shop’s dusty wooden shelves, each one in need of a good watering. Soon your first customer emerges from the shadows with a request for a medicinal plant to help rid them of the voices they hear at night.

You’re no expert; instead, you must rely on the reference materials left by your uncle, chiefly, his edition of The Strange Book of Plants, a horticultural guide filled with clues for identifying plants from their scent, the shape of their leaves, the colours of their petals, as well as to remedial properties.

Provide the customer with the correct plant and you’ll unlock new pages in the book, and perhaps the gift of a new plant or two to add to the shop’s stock. Visitors include locals suffering from insomnia or memory loss, as well as plant traders offering useful swaps. Your trusted postman delivers letters daily too, which often provide tips for new plant varieties discovered in the surrounding landscape.

You’re not purely counter-bound. Watering plants earns you excursions into the wild, to follow up on leads and attempt to expand your collection. It’s easy to make mistakes, and misidentifying and mislabelling plants can have grave consequences for those in desperate need of medicine.

Much of the game’s thickly melancholic atmosphere comes from the shadier, quasi-mystical side of the business. A unique proposition, with its own rhythm and character, that may just inspire a keen interest in botany.