It’s the fourth day of the RPS Advent Calendar and today it’s raining. But it is rainy – relaxing. There is a purring cat. You have an infusion, and nothing in particular planned. Maybe you’ll recatalog your bustling, living inventory.
What else could it be but Strange Horticulture!
Alice Bee: I often think that I would like to run a small shop selling a niche of products. Except I wouldn’t want that, because that would involve doing another kind of tax and paying rent on the premises and ordering stock and so on. And so on. So what I would really like to do is run a shop like Strange Horticulture. It’s a timeless place, a retail simulator where what you sell are answers to problems in the form of strange plants. You are sitting in your shop, and people come pleading to an altar and ask you: I need the plant to help me sleep, which one is it? I am troubled by visions, so should I take the plant to stop them, or make them stronger? Which of these plants will open a lock?
And you open your big illustrated tome of plants, and you flip to the right page, and you write down the description. And then you look through the jars on your shelves, and you find what your customers are looking for. There’s also a deeper mystery, but what I liked most about Strange Horticulture was that tactility. As I moved the flower pots around, read that some leaves were pungent or others smelled like citrus, I was blown away! I felt like I was really opening the secret drawer in my desk and poring over the map of the area, really putting new pages in my instruction tome, and carefully writing my labels for the plants. What a charming and slightly sinister shopkeeper.
Rebecca: Did you know that in Strange Horticulture you can prevent Hellebore the cat from being startled by the ringing of the store bell? What you need to do is pet it right before dinner, throw it into its scratching animation, and thus cancel its frightened animation. I know this because my partner played Strange Horticulture before me and was so adamant about not scaring off Hellebore with the bell that I entered the game thinking there was some sort of stress meter from hidden chat that I had to manage. Then I remembered my partner was just a big softie when it came to cats. I did it every time anyway, because you should be nice to Hellebore.
Strange Horticulture wasn’t a hard sell for me: it’s an indie game about running a small plant shop with a friendly black cat, and to be honest, I’m thinking about getting into this work to pursue that exact dream at least once. one week. Additionally, I have a lifelong interest in video games set in the UK that are not based around London. To the best of my recollection I’ve only visited Windermere once in my life, but it was one of those random beautiful days that for some reason becomes a staple childhood memory, so I was out of proportion excited to see Quartier Lake as the setting for a game.
There’s also a certain fascination I have with any game that puts you in the shoes of a character that would traditionally be an NPC. I’m a sucker for the subgenre where you run a blacksmith shop or a miscellaneous market stall, supplying heroes with the key item at the right time, but for you, it’s just an ordinary day. In Strange Horticulture, the main characters of a complex occult mystery pass through your store daily, but all you do is ruminate on the place thinking about your plants. It’s a delightful side angle to view this dark fairy tale, with the added bonus that it ups the spooky factor considerably.
Now remember: it’s scritches for Hellebore, then ring the bell.
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