|Dev: Plastic Group|
|Release: May 8, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence, Blood, Use of Tobacco|
by Becky Cunningham
It hardly feels right to review Datura using ordinary paragraphs, particularly considering that the game barely communicates with language at all. Perhaps I'd be better off writing some haiku or painting a review in pictures. Alas, convention dictates that I attach words and scores to games. Just be warned that Datura is barely a game, and more of an "experience" in which the apparently dead player wanders through a mysterious forest and occasionally sees odd flashback-style scenes in which there are moral choices to be made.
When entering the experience, however, I was immediately confronted with a barrier towards immersion. The game clearly wishes the player to identify its avatar (usually seen as a disembodied hand that interacts with the environment) as the self, but the grunts emitted by the avatar as well as the occasional glimpses of his body show that he's clearly male. If any game should spare the expense to create a gender choice in its main character, it should be one like this. I was supposed to feel like Datura was my story, but instead I was immediately removed from the experience because it was clearly not my story, but some random dude's.
Putting gender issues aside and getting to the game, it wasn't long before I was reminded of one of the cardinal rules of PlayStation 3 gaming: never, ever attempt to use the DualShock for motion control. Datura was obviously built with the PlayStation Move first and foremost in mind, and honestly I wish it had just made the Move mandatory. The gameplay bits in Datura involve making various gestures in order to interact with environmental objects. Lacking a Move, I frequently floundered through the puzzles as the game prompted me to turn the DualShock in improbable ways or refused to accept my input even when I was prompted to do something simple such as shaking the controller up and down.
Whichever controller is used, the basic character movement seems intentionally clunky. Traversing the forest using the analog sticks feels rather like controlling a drunk middle-aged man who lurches unsteadily and takes a very long time to turn his head. This is partially because, despite taking place in a fully three-dimensional environment, the game stubbornly desires the player to look at important objects and will sometimes refuse to allow the player to look freely around. That's unfortunate, because the autumnal forest is lovely, and exploring it is one of the few things the player is able to do without being forced into a motion-controlled puzzle or action sequence.
Datura basically alternates between lurching through the forest, touching white trees in order to make a map (the game calls this "spiritual guidance"), solving extremely basic adventure game-style puzzles, and being thrown into flashback scenes. Each of these scenes involves a moral choice, some more obvious than others. Most of them involve choosing whether to be violent and self-serving or peaceful and self-sacrificing. My struggle with the controls often marred these flashbacks. For instance, one flashback involves driving a car, but the game refused to acknowledge my controller turns, throwing me into an uncontrolled spin that ended with me being hit by a truck. The white dot that appeared on my map afterward told me that I made the "good" choice, but only looking up the scene on the 'Net told me what the choice was supposed to have been in the first place. The overall experience was somewhat like playing Myst, but without interesting puzzles or a backstory of any kind.