Review:- Datura

Game: Datura
Format: PlayStation Network
Developer: Plastic
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Say what you will about the way Sony have supported the PlayStation Move, but few can deny that it is a great piece of kit, with lots of potential for all sorts a amazing motion controlled ideas. Unfortunately, there have been a scant few dedicated titles to supported this magical little peripheral and camera, with memorable Move games being few and far between.

However a new release going by the name Datura hopes to demonstrate how impressive, innovative and immersive the Move can be.

Thankfully for those who didn’t fork out for the Move, you can play Datura without it, instead using the Dual Shock controller’s built in Sixaxis functionality, but from what I’ve experienced using the Move controller is a far more immersive experience.

“But what exactly is Datura?” I hear you ask. Well to be perfectly honest it’s a hard game to explain or even understand for that matter. As the story begins you are lying in the back of a ambulance after an unfortunate and unknown accident, but by some miracle, you’ve survived. Upon awaking and realising that you’re not dead, you lift the blanket, pull off the electrodes monitoring your heart rhythm and then immediately get shocked three times with a defibrillator by a rookie paramedic who failed to realise that when their eyes are open and they’re moving, you probably shouldn’t electrocute the patient.

Needless to say you black out and wake up in a mysterious, fog shrouded forest, full of puzzles and strange artifacts. The puzzles are very straightforward, hardly taxing on the old noggin and from this point on your main incentive is to explore. It’s at this point that strange thoughts begin to enter your mind; are you dead? Is this the afterlife? Is it a dream? Are you in limbo? Who knows! To be completely honest it hardly seems to matter since there are no names or dialogue and the story can be interpreted in a number of different ways depending on who plays it thanks to the game’s randomness.

The majority of the game takes place in a dark and misty forest

The forest is where you’ll spend most of your time, using the analogue stick to walk around aimlessly until you find something of interest. It’s hard to get lost in this weird woodland, you don’t have to go far to find out what your supposed to do next, but if you do get lost there’s a map available. Using your cartographic skills you have to draw the map yourself by feeling up the white ash tree’s dotted around the woods to help get your bearings. This is a nice touch but it seems pretty redundant since it’s almost impossible to get lost. Finding all the trees if worth doing for a trophy at least but there are much more worthwhile things to do.

Once you find an interesting and out of place artifact you can use the Move controls (or right Analogue stick if you’re using a basic controller) to move your floating disembodied hand around, which feels a little odd at first. The vast majority of puzzles can be solved with basic hand movements, such as throwing a potato at a pig, collecting a vase of green sludge, ripping the face off a tree in order to get a pick-axe from within and sometimes flying through a mans intestine’s like a water slide only to have it turn into a space 2001 tunnel of light. Seriously, that really happens. The whole time you’re just thinking, “what is the significance of this? and how exactly are each of these random puzzles connected?” and by the time you’ve finished the game you’ll have a fairly good idea of what the significance of each puzzle is. Sort of.

Wandering around this forest of wonders is a delight, despite the sluggish controls, thanks to the intricately detailed and gorgeous autumn environment. The colour pallet doesn’t vary tremendously, this is a forest after all, and as you progress solving puzzles to unlock more areas of the forest, more characters will emerge and more events will occur transporting you away from the woodland. These are the most interesting parts of the game, where you are presented with moral choices which come to affect the ending of the game and more immediately the amount of flies or butterflies in the woods. These insects basically reflect good and bad, they’re simply a visual representation of the choices you’ve made.

There are no problems in Datura that cannot be fixed with your hands

So Datura is beaming with artistic direction but it feels like a bunch of great ideas that have all been thrown together in a brainstorming session in an attempt to quickly bring something new to the market. The game doesn’t suffer because of it though and it’s clear that a lot of love went into it. Despite the awkward controls Datura is quite appealing, the element of surprise keeps you hooked, you’ll never be able to predict what’s going to happen next and the various outcomes can definitely make it worth playing through again.

Despite the game’s fantastic presentation, its the soundtrack  that really steals the show. The originally composed orchestral tracks really bring the forest to life with its eerie violins and haunting guitar tunes. It follows you on your journey and delivers just the right amount of punch when things start to get tense. Coupled with the game’s environment and weird aesthetic, it builds a thick atmosphere.

It’s certainly a very cerebral, dreamlike experience, and is very different to what were used to. It’s a throwback to the first person point and click adventures like MYST, except this is actually good. The main problem is the game doesn’t last long enough nor is there anything substantial for you to grab on to emotionally. After the credits roll you come away feeling disappointed because Datura is a fantastic idea where Move has been used extensively. It just feels far too much like a tech demo, or a collection of random ideas, and not a real game. If there had been a proper story with dialogue there, some voice acting maybe, some written lore and some collectables of some kind, then Datura might have been really special.

Review Round-Up

Gameplay: 3/5 - The basic gameplay can be summed up thusly: wander around a misty forest, open a door, solve puzzles, observe the environment. The move controls and Sixaxis have been implemented fairly well with results that just about make par.

Sound: 5/5 - A beautifully composed orchestral soundtrack makes an otherwise dull walk through the woods a delight.

Graphics: 4/5- Datura has a unique artistic style that frequently surprises you. It’s not graphically mind-blowing but there’s a lot of detail there with vivid colours and textures.

Longevity: 1/5 – Unfortunately Datura will only last you about 2 hours but the interesting choices you make along the way may very well warrant at least one more playthough just to see what would have happened if you’d done things differently.

Overall: 3.5 Disembodied Hands out of 5

A very artistic and original game. It’s not exactly fun, but is more of an interesting surreal experiment. If you’re a PlayStation Move owner, and you’re waiting for a game that actually supports the peripheral, then you could do much worse than try this out.

- Adam Radcliffe

Fri, May 11 2012 » PS3, Reviews

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