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Video Game / Strange Horticulture

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Strange Horticulture is an adventure game by Bad Viking Studios, released in January 2022. You play as the owner of the titular "Strange Horticulture" shop in a roughly Victorian Campbell Country, helping several strange folk seeking herbal remedies and ritual plants. And then, the place being what it is, things get... complicated.

The story of the game plays out over sixteen days and has three distinct endings (which also have their variants depending on your decisions).

This game provides examples of:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: Several plants are required to advance the plot, but you either lack the info to identify them, or the plant itself. There's also the magical lens that you get from the Hermit, that you need to read things written in invisible ink.
  • Amoral Attorney: Isidore Burbidge threatens to sue because he was wrong about the medicinal plant he needed and blames you for it not working. If you don't murder him, his ending card states that he's pursuing legal action against your shop.
  • Artistic License – Biology: You have a number of fungi along with your plants. Fungi and plants are not closely relatednote  but this is justified by the Victorian-esque setting. At that time, fungi were traditionally considered to be related to plants and they didn't have the research tools to dig into their evolutionary history.
  • But Thou Must!: You can't turn a customer away, nor send them away with a random plant. All choices are completely scripted.
  • Cool Old Guy: Amos Duncan, your uncle's friend who keeps you up to date on some of the rare plants.
  • Cool Old Lady: Verona Green, the occult scholar. She comes to you for something that would help her scare off a bratty kid, then provides some useful information and finally (potentially) helps you save the world.
  • Deadly Upgrade: The Draer are an order of hunters who have taken a drug crafted from the Dranthium plant since childhood. This means they enjoy permanently heightened awareness far beyond the human standard, but if they don't regularly take the drug, they die.
  • Defective Detective: Reuben Ward, the local investigator, is an alcoholic.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Isidore Burbidge is a massive Jerkass to you and your cat. You can poison him for that.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Servant. It's an ancient spirit, also known as the Dendrew, worshiped by a seriously dodgy cult. It might have obeyed Thea when she first summoned it, but it was so powerful that she needs serious help from you to maintain the slightest control over it.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The horticulturist (you) is never seen; it takes place from a first-person perspective behind your counter.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of every day, you're given a few lines of a story about a troubled young woman when you flip over the card. It's Thea Ward, Reuben's daughter and the current master of the Dendrew.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Isidore's biography says that his childhood was loveless, but it doesn't excuse how nasty he is as an adult man.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: If you don't kill Forest, he'll survive his encounter with the Servant but is seriously injured. He returns to your shop to tell you that he can't finish the job.
  • Game Over: The horticulturalist lives with "A Rising Dread" caused by the inherently spooky nature of the region. If this meter fills, then their mind "shatters" and you are taken to a screen where you have to piece together the game's emblem or find the right key to unlock your ravaged brain. The dread meter can be filled by giving the wrong plant to a customer, failing to brew an elixir correctly, or going to the wrong place at the wrong time (like a place where murder has just happened).
  • Golden Ending: While the intended "good" ending has the Servant banished, you need to place Embersoul on the Altar of Arduinna on Day 10 in order to protect Bethany and the Sisterhood.
  • Guide Dang It!: One of the choices for the Golden Ending is fairly counterintuitive. Cauldery is described as a sacred flower of Arduinna, which may have you think that it's the plant you need to place on the altar. However, it's supposed to bring the blessing of a successful hunt - the other flower, Embersoul, brings the blessing of sanctuary.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Or ten. After Reuben investigates the crime scene in the summoning circle in Swinside, he gets thoroughly hammered and comes to you for a hangover remedy.
  • Kick the Dog: Isidore Burbidge, the thoroughly unpleasant lawyer, literally punches a defenseless puppy at one point for kicks and giggles. You learn of this after you had the chance to enact your disproportionate retribution on him and, potentially, wasted it.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Inheriting the shop came with your own pet black cat, Hellebore, fitting named after a type of plant. Clicking on it lets you pet it, resulting in blissy purring. Simone similarly dotes on Hellebore.
  • Multiple Endings: Three of them.
    • Verona and, potentially, Bethany help you conduct a ritual that banishes the Servant.
    • The Seeds of Retribution let the Servant run free. Bad things happen.
    • With the Elixir of Control, Faye hijacks control over the Servant... Or you can throw Swiftsnare at her and drink the Elixir yourself.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ennis Aleford, the representative of the Seeds of Retribution, looks like Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Lampshaded with the Red Abony plant, which is a dark blue in colour. The Book of Plants recounts that the name is attributed to the amount of blood spilled over it.
  • The Place: "Strange Horticulture" is the name of your shop.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Verona complains that the Sisters are so insular that they're endangering themselves in their refusal to admit they need help dealing with the Servant.
  • See-Thru Specs: A strange hermit gives you a device that can be used as a lens for invisible magic, which turns out to be critical for some important secrets.
  • Shout-Out: The Strange Book of Plants you'll be referring to throughout the game is authored by one Wilfrid Voynich, the eponymous purchaser of the real-life Voynich Manuscript. Like the Strange Book, the Voynich Manuscript features detailed botanical drawings of unidentified, possibly fictional, plants.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Forest Vair, the Huntsman, has vividly green eyes due to his use of Dranthium, similarly to Spice users from Dune.
  • Tragic Villain: The Masked Woman. At one point, you might realize that she's Reuben's daughter, and while she poisoned the Arda and summoned the Servant that went after the hapless shepherd who happened to be around, at the end of the story she realizes how much she went off the deep end.
  • Truth Serum: One of the plants forces people to tell the truth. You're given a hint to use this on Simone late in the game. If you do, she gives you the recipe for the Elixir of Control to deal with the Servant, but she'll be pissed when she comes in the next day and warn you not to try it.
  • Wham Line: If you chose the wrong plant on Day 10, Day 12 starts with Verona entering with the news that Bethany—along with most of the other Sisters—have been slaughtered.