Botany Manor for Xbox review: A calming, planting, exploring, Xbox Game Passing adventure

Botany Manor will only take up a few hours of your time, but you'll enjoy every minute.

Screenshot of Botany Manor running on Xbox Series X.
(Image: © Windows Central)

Windows Central Verdict

Botany Manor is a lovely little puzzle game that's relaxing, engaging, beautiful, and approachable. It's a great first game from Balloon Studios with a lot of charm, but it's not perfect, and it's even shorter than I expected. Being a day-one addition to Xbox Game Pass, though, makes it stupendously easy to recommend Botany Manor for an afternoon of fun.


  • +

    Gorgeous, soft visual style with fantastic animations

  • +

    Simple yet engaging puzzles centered around growing plants

  • +

    Little secrets, lore, and environmental storytelling make exploring worthwhile

  • +

    Approachable and accessible with great game design and smart features


  • -

    Very short, taking around 3 hours to fully complete

  • -

    Some visual glitches, control awkwardness, and one baffling game design decision

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Many publishers have specific focuses, and Whitethorn Games is no different. The indie publisher exclusively works with smaller, creative, and more approachable titles from independent developers. The result is a catalog of easy-to-play, relaxing adventures through a myriad of gaming worlds, and the latest from the publisher is my favorite yet. Botany Manor is a gorgeous, soft-spoken puzzle-adventure game that you can complete in an afternoon.

You explore a 19th-century Victorian manor surrounded by luscious gardens, and your goal is simple: explore the grounds for rare and exotic plants and research how to make them grow for your herbarium. It's not a difficult or content-packed game by any means, but it looks great, sounds even better, and features an engaging world filled with reasons to explore. It's also a day-one addition to Xbox Game Pass, so there's little reason not to download this bite-sized game and give it a few hours of your time.


This review was made possible with a review code provided by Whitethorn Games. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

What is Botany Manor?

Botany Manor

• Price: $24.99 at Microsoft Store (Xbox) | Steam (PC) | Nintendo (Switch)
• Release date:
Apr. 9, 2024
• Developer:
Balloon Studios
• Publisher:
Whitethorn Games
• Genre:
• Players:
• Install size:
• Playtime:
~3 hours
• Platforms:
Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch
• Xbox Game Pass:
Console, PC, cloud
• Reviewed on:
Xbox Series X

Botany Manor is an indie game developed by Balloon Studios and published by Whitethorn Games under the ID@Xbox umbrella. In fact, Botany Manor earned the Developer Acceleration Program grant in addition to its Xbox Game Pass partnership, showing Xbox's well-placed faith in the game. It's one of many games shown at a recent digital ID@Xbox event preview, and my coverage of that event also includes an explainer on ID@Xbox and the Developer Acceleration Program, as well as an exclusive interview.

In Botany Manor, you play as Arabella Greene in the late 19th century, an aspiring young botanist struggling to obtain recognition as a scientist in an industry dominated by self-centered and small-minded men. Pursuing her love of botany, Arabella returns to her family home, a Victorian manor originally built in the late 16th century, in search of a collection of rare and exotic plants to fill out her herbarium, Forgotten Flora.

You'll explore both the manor and the grounds, finding bits of Arabella's past, notes and clues, and plenty of plants to research and cultivate. Each plant is different, though, which is where the "puzzle" aspect of the gameplay comes in. You'll have to discover what each plant needs to grow and follow those steps exactly to find success. Botany Manor is available across Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Game Pass, PC Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming from Apr. 9, 2024.

Botany Manor — $24.99 at Microsoft Store (Xbox) | Steam (PC) | Nintendo (Switch)

Botany Manor — $24.99 at Microsoft Store (Xbox) | Steam (PC) | Nintendo (Switch)

Botany Manor is a short and sweet puzzle-adventure game following a passionate botanist filling her herbarium with a collection of rare, exotic, and truly unique plants.

Botany Manor review: The good

This is all yours to explore in Botany Manor. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The pros highlights

  • The puzzle-adventure gameplay is casual, relaxing, approachable, and still manages to be engaging.
  • The soft, pastel visuals are lovely and alluring, with a ton of life all throughout the world.
  • It's a lot of fun exploring the Victorian manor and discovering secrets, lore, and new puzzles.

Botany Manor begins in a small area, slowly easing you into its gameplay by introducing you to a straightforward puzzle: explore your immediate surroundings for clues and cultivate the flower that will help purify the air and allow you to leave. Yes, the capabilities of the flower are greatly exaggerated (some of these plants basically have superpowers), but it never deters from the puzzles or worldbuilding.

Once you escape the conservatory, you'll be (mostly) free to explore the Victorian manor that Arabella calls home. A myriad of rooms, gardens, and other areas are closed away by locks, puzzles, and secret entrances, all of which you'll slowly unravel as you progress. Botany Manor does a great job balancing a sense of freedom with a guided experience that ensures you're never lost by guaranteeing that everything you need to progress will always be nearby.

None of the puzzles are particularly challenging, but they are interesting and engaging, never repeating in obvious ways and always introducing new ideas or mechanics. Each plant you cultivate will be unique and gorgeous in its own way; sometimes, you'll need to find new sources of light, use sounds, or even alter the chemical composition of the plant's soil. Whatever the answer, it involves finding clues and research scattered around the manor and using it to piece together the answers, with everything you find recorded in Arabella's Forgotten Flora herbarium.

Your first flower is fairly easy to figure out, but others will require more creative solutions. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The game is highly approachable, bereft of overtly complicated controls or systems. It's designed for anyone to pick up and enjoy, and Balloon Studios have done a great job here in a similar vein to other incredible puzzle games like COCOON (which was one of my games of the year for 2023, if you want to read my COCOON review). However, Balloon Studios also builds some accessibility features on top of that simple game design, which is always great to see.

Besides options for mouse and keyboard or controller play, you can enable single-stick gameplay (for those with limited mobility, where you can easily toggle between "look" and "move"). There are also plenty of options for camera and video options aimed at combating motion sickness associated with first-person games, such as a Vignette mode, adjustable field-of-view (FoV), customizable camera smoother, sensitivity, motion blur, and more.

It's not the most in-depth accessibility option I've seen in a game, but it's very respectable for such a small team and definitely fits Whitethorn Games' mantra of building "engaging, accessible games."

Botany Manor review: The bad

It annoys me endlessly that you can read any of these clues from the book. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The cons highlights

  • Botany Manor is a lot of fun while it lasts, but it is a very short game that you can 100% in less than four hours.
  • I also noticed a number of visual and graphical glitches, as well as some awkwardness when trying to interact with smaller items.
  • Finally, I desperately wish that there was some way to actually review your clues and notes through the herbarium instead of needing to hunt down where they are in the world.

I immensely enjoyed Botany Manor, but I do have some criticisms. I'll start with the easy: performance and graphical issues. The game mostly ran great on my Xbox Series X, but I frequently noticed textures and environmental assets either flickering at the edges of the screen or popping out of existence as I panned the camera around. I did slightly increase my FoV, which may have contributed to this, but not to the degree I noticed the problems. There were six achievements that simply refused to pop no matter what I did, too (the other 30 were perfectly fine).

I also encountered difficulty when attempting to interact with smaller items in the game. Nothing too egregious, just little moments of awkwardness trying to get the right thing to highlight. On the gameplay side, you compile clues and notes in your herbarium as you work toward cultivating plants, but you can't actually re-read those clues from the herbarium — you have to go find them in the game again if you need a refresher. This made adding clues to the herbarium ultimately feel pointless and made the last few chapters occasionally annoying as I had to juggle more plants and more clues.

My biggest issue with Botany Manor, though, is simply how short it is. Whitethorn Games quoted me around 4-5 hours of playtime, but I 100% Botany Manor in just over 3 hours. I didn't rush, either — I took my time exploring and even went back toward the end of the game to earn more achievements and discover more secrets. I would've loved for the game to last just another hour or two longer, especially since there's not a lot of replay value once you've solved all the puzzles. I had a blast with Botany Manor, but it was gone too soon.

Botany Manor review: Final thoughts

There's so much beauty to discover in Botany Manor. (Image credit: Windows Central)

You should play this if ...

You love casual puzzle games

Botany Manor is a fleeting experience, but it's a lovely one. I've not played many games that are as relaxing and as simple to ease into, and the puzzle-adventure gameplay is surprisingly engaging, considering the focus on approachability.

You have Xbox Game Pass

Being such a short game may make some hesitate about the $25 retail price, but Botany Manor's inclusion on Xbox and PC Game Pass gives you no excuse to pass over it. An afternoon is all you need to get a full, calming gameplay experience out of Botany Manor.

You should not play this if ...

You're looking for a long form puzzle game

Botany Manor is a very solid little game, but if you're looking for something to occupy a lot of your time, this isn't it. There are much longer puzzle games out there, like The Talos Principle 2, which offers around 20 hours of playtime.

I commend Balloon Studios for its first published video game. Botany Manor is undeniably charming in its presentation, with bright and vivid colors spread against soft textures and an alluring, emotional backing soundtrack. The gameplay is effortless to learn and approachable for players of all skill levels, and while the puzzles don't revolutionize the genre, they are engaging and interesting.

It's not a perfect game, and you find the end of the journey far too quickly, but you're bound to enjoy every step you take in Botany Manor. The narrative is told solely through the world and notes you find, but it's a story of a woman persevering against society in pursuit of her dreams, and the path you walk to find those dreams is lined with beautiful flowers, ferns, and weeds. Botany Manor may not compete with the best Xbox games directly, but it's a lovely adventure that's stupendously easy to play if you're an Xbox Game Pass subscriber.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.