Review - Datura


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  • Datura
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Atmospheric Indie from Plastic debuts on PSN
Sony Computer Entertainment
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Waking on a gurney in a speeding ambulance, you peel the monitors off your chest and black out, suddenly awaking in the mysterious forest where inscrutable clues force you to question your very sanity.

This is how Datura begins. It’s the first full title from Polish developers Plastic, who debuted with the generally celebrated Demoscene project Linger in Shadows in 2008. Datura certainly presents a more interactive experience than that previous title, complete with now ubiquitous move controls and an atmospheric presentation which many will find compelling.

Controlled from a first person perspective, Datura charges you with investigating a strange woodland environment for objects which be interacted with. Once found, players will manipulate their virtual hand on screen to perform a number of tasks, including simple fetch and carry puzzles as well as more complicated gesture based interactions.

Completed tasks help to open doors which allow you to progress to the next area and also sometimes offer you more complex choices. When confronted by a puzzle you might find yourself transported to a new area or thrust into an action scene where you’ll have to decide how the situation plays out. Examples include choosing between saving a someone trapped under the ice or nabbing some loot or taking over a gun emplacement or dragging an injured man to safety.

Choices have consequences, with the world slowly shifting and changing as your personality is revealed – you’ll find more flowers greet an altruistic decision while decrepit trees and sinister whispers greet those concerned with self preservation.
As far as gameplay goes, that’s really all there is to Datura. Puzzles can be completed in any order and you are free to wander the autumnal byways of this strange wood. But progression is also strictly linear, with a new door to unlock for each area. And, despite a pace that could charitably be called stately, the entire experience lasts for less than two hours.

Datura wears its indie game heart on its sleeve, presenting a purposefully vague story and focussing more on creating an atmosphere and tone than an action packed story mode. And, to some degree, it succeeds. The home grown visuals vary hugely in quality – the individual, physics fuelled leaves which line the ground in every direction are wonderfully crafted and the sound and haunting music, contextual music score really help to sell the otherworldly nature of the piece. But human character models are basic and poorly animated, while I’m pretty sure I was attacked by a dog which more closely resembled a cotton ball.

As an indie game developed by a small team, technical details like these could easily be ignored in favour of something genuinely atmospheric if the experience wasn’t also frequently flawed and frustrating. Datura can be controlled using either the six axis or PS Move but neither does a consistent or convincing job. Navigation is easier with the regular controller but more complex interactions are either counterintuitive or outright impossible with the lumpen pad. The move gives you more accurate control over your comically flailing (and disturbingly disembodied) hand but forces you to dry hump obstructions in order to navigate by them. And with either method on screen prompts are sometimes too obscure, or inaccurate, to register.

There’s little doubt that Datura is a fittingly engaging experience and an interesting glimpse at what a more pure bred adventure game might be like with full Move- enabled controls. But the short length, overly subtle storytelling and frustrating fundamentals make it difficult to recommend, even for just €9.99.

Datura is available now on PSN for €9.99.

5 Stars
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