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Datura Review

8 May 2012

After wrapping up my first play through of Datura, I wasn’t quite sure what to think – it really is that unique. However, one thing that was abundantly clear is that I hadn’t played anything like this on PlayStation Network, and am not likely to for quite some time either. An adventure game at its core, Datura – named after the eponymous, potentially-hazardous form of plant life you’ll spot frequently throughout– is entirely open to interpretation, boasting an ambiguous setting that is as mind-numbing as it is stunning. Developed by Plastic Studios in conjunction with SCE Studio Santa Monica, the game evokes classic adventures such as Myst, placing emphasis on exploration and the unyielding sense of discovery.

One thing you should know right off the bat: Datura is best played with PlayStation Move. Sure, you can plump for the regular SixAxis pad if you wish, but it’s clear Plastic wants you to get your waggle on to enjoy the full level of immersion that Datura offers. So suited to PS Move is the game in fact, that I didn’t opt for any other control method during my time with it. So, what of the game itself? Well, things start off clear enough, with your character strapped down in the back of an ambulance. After wriggling about for a bit, you soon flat line, and wake up in the middle of a dreamy, sumptuously-realised forest. This is where things properly get underway, and you’ll be spending most of your time in this lush location.

Datura gives you full control over a disembodied hand, which you’ll use to feel, push, throw and grasp your way through this cerebrally-driven romp. The PS Move offers 1:1 motion with the hand, allowing for an intuitive, immersive experience when picking stuff to aiming down the barrel of a gun. Moving about isn’t quite as graceful, requiring you to hold down the PS Move button while using the controller to guide you in the desired direction. Fortunately, I didn’t take too long getting acquainted with the controls, and a series of on-screen hints facilitated the learning process. Throw in the ability to run by hitting Trigger and walk backwards by holding circle, and you’ll soon be moving around easily enough. While it still feels awkward at times, the triangle button pops up now and then allowing you to focus on objects of interest, which helps trim the fat of wandering around aimlessly. I found the PS Move itself to be pretty accurate and responsive, and was soon soaking up the atmosphere without fiddling around with the set-up.

Your overall objective is to progress to each new area, which is accomplished by solving a variety of riddles. The puzzles make great use of PS Move’s motion-sensing shenanigans, and there’s plenty to do to boot. For example, one scenario had me pouring a vase of slimy, green liquid into a statue’s water bale, while another time I was force to wake up a sleeping pig by lobbing prickly fruit at it – all while simulating a throwing motion with PS Move with alarming accuracy. Each area is free to explore, though doesn’t offer a great deal of freedom, and as such I found myself easily navigating my way through the woods to my next objective – I didn’t even bother with the in-game map. Sadly, the puzzles themselves are never really all that challenging, and it makes you wonder what would have happened had Plastic really gone to town by allowing you to put your thinking cap on a little more. Nonetheless, you are presented with various choices throughout, which offer a little more incentive in terms of replay value. Did you run over the pig or swerve to avoid it? Did you grab the trophy in the ice or rescue the drowning man? The choice is up to you.

Despite the lack of challenge, the riddles are still compelling enough to endure, seeing as how they’re fundamentally so varied and reasonable enjoyable to act out with PS Move. I still felt a sense of accomplishment in spite of their simplicity, though admittedly it was more to do with execution than challenge. The Forest isn’t the only location you’ll visit either; one moment you may find yourself in the trenches during fierce battle, the other time you’ll be speeding down the highway at night. At first these sequences come off as somewhat incongruous compared to the tranquillity of the woodland setting, but they’re a welcome addition nonetheless, offering an invigorating shot in the arm before the visual monotony of the forest begins to set. Speaking of visuals, Datura is an incredibly gorgeous game. Some of the textures are a little bland and the character models are hardly anything to write home about, but the art direction combined with the dream-like hew that encompasses the woods lends the game a palpable atmosphere. The soundtrack meanwhile is sublime, punctuating the adventuring with subtle, moody pieces that only adds to Datura’s bizarre aura.

Overall, Datura is an intriguing adventure, and you’re unlikely to play anything like it this year. PS Move control is precise and immersive, and while at times not as graceful as it could be, doesn’t detract from the experience too much. Unfortunately, the puzzles that make up the meat-and-potatoes of the action are a bit too simplistic for my liking, and the game is woefully short to boot. Some ugly slowdown rears its head at times too, and at one point I seemingly became stuck on the scenery before finally extricating myself by making arbitrary gestures with the controller. That said, for $9.99 it’s still worth picking up, and the fact you can make various decisions offers a decent amount of replay value. Had the game been expanded into a 3-5 hour adventure with harder riddles and more exploration, then Datura would have surely been a must-have purchase. As it stands, it’s still a nice treat, but ultimately leaves you hungry for more.

-The Final Word-

Despite being woefully short and lacking some genuinely challenging puzzles, Datura is still a captivating and unique experience worth checking out.
  • The scrumptious visuals
  • The great use of PS Move
  • Superb atmosphere and score
  • The short game length
  • Puzzles are too easy
  • Some annoying slowdown and minor hiccups
7.0
Platforms reviewed : PSN
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