Publisher
Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer
Plastic

Released: May 8, 2012
Reviewed: May 20, 2012
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Genre: Adventure
Players: 1
Also on:

Supported Features:
  • DualShock 3
  • 879 MB (Full Game)
  • HDTV 720p
  • Dolby Digital
  • PlayStation Eye
  • PS Move Compatible


  • Review Scores: (?)
    6 - Gameplay
    8 - Graphics
    8 - Sound
    6 - Value

    FINAL SCORE:
    7.4/10 (Great)


    Datura

    Datura is the second release from developer, Plastic, the guys who brought us the interactive art piece, Linger in Shadows back in 2008. Datura is much more interactive, very nearly approaching adventure game status, but it ultimately slips into its niche role as a Virtual Reality Move Experiment and a conversation piece game you might break out at your next social gathering.

    Following in the motif of Journey, Datura takes you on a trippy adventure in the afterlife, only instead of a third-person trek through the desert you are on a first-person adventure through the woods in a game that can best be described as “Myst Meets Alice in Wonderland”. You begin your journey in the back of an ambulance as you lift up your blanket and remove your EKG pads. As you flatline the EMT pulls out the paddles and shocks you until you wake up in an eerily silent autumn woods blanketed in crunchy leaves.

    Like all good mind-benders, you have no clue what to do, where to go, or why you are here. A few early tutorial prompts will get you started on your journey, but then it’s all about exploration and self-discovery. The first thing you’ll discover is that the DualShock 3 is all but worthless for playing this game, so either break out the PS Move or don’t bother playing. But even the Move has its own issues, with awkward VR interactions and clumsy button commands that make something as simple as throwing a ball a cumbersome chore. I found myself recalibrating several times per game, which was odd because the PS Move has always been extremely reliable in previous games with just a single pre-game setup.

    So, using the Motion controller you press the Move button to walk forward and the circle button to back-up, giving the game a bit of a tank-like feel. I almost expected to hear a "beep-beep" when gliding in reverse. While walking you can move the controller side to side to swivel your view and change direction or if you would rather spin in place you can press X and then move the controller. From time to time the triangle prompt will appear. Pushing triangle will focus your view on a potential hot spot and sometimes the triangle will actually interact with an object or item.

    When interacting with Datura a virtual hand will appear on the screen that you can move around in real-time, almost like a virtual extension of yourself. The hand will rotate to match the orientation of the Move controller to grasp a door handle, pick up a vase, or throw a ball. These actions all make up a clever series of puzzles that need to be solved like finding a jar to fill with water so you can pour it in a container to reveal a key to unlock a door to…well, you get the idea. Solve all the puzzles in one area to unlock the gate to the next.

    Along the way you will also come across special white trees that can be touched to gain insight about the surrounding area. Each time you touch a tree you will sketch out a bit more of a map on your notepad that you can reference in a cool VR mode by pressing square. During your journey you will also come across several “decision points” that can either have a positive or negative outcome as noted by a black or white dot on your map after the event. There seems to be no right or wrong choices, but you will have to live with the results of your actions in a fairly heavy-handed walk of shame or fame in the final moments of the game. Did you kill a pig, did you save a boy, or did you let a soldier die? Datura is a game of introspection that is sure to encourage interesting conversations for all who play.

    Visually, Datura looks really good, again reminding me of Myst only without the insane puzzles. The woods are especially detailed, the animations for the pig, the dog, the hunter, the boys, and the various touches of flora and fauna are nearly photorealistic. Even when you are snatched from the surreal environment of the woods to take part in mini-missions on a frozen lake, an indoor pool, or drive a car down a dark twisting road, the graphics impress from start to finish. The ambient sound effects and almost sinister nature of the music works at a subconscious level to keep you in a constant state of cautious fear.

    Datura is only a two hour experience at best. The white trees aren’t that hard to spot and once you fill in the map the key locations are all called out, so it’s merely a matter of following the course laid out for you and completing the various goals along the way. I supposed you could replay the game to try and get all the good or all the bad outcomes for each key moment, but there is no trophy for doing so.

    Datura is probably a game you’ll only play once or twice but it’s nice to have around so you can watch other people participate in this unique and somewhat revolutionary experience. Sure, the game has some control issues, but it’s nothing you can’t overcome with patience and proper calibration, and the sensation of accomplishment and self-discovery when it’s all over will be worth the journey.

    Screenshots