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Datura Review | Tech Demotional

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Datura, Plastic Studios, PS Move games, PS3 games, Sony Computer Entertainment
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Playstation 3

Datura Review | Tech Demotional

Platform: PS3

Developer: Plastic Studios

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

These days, it's impossible to really look upon the PlayStation Move as anything more than a cash-in gimmick. Microsoft threw money at Kinect, with arguable effects, but they did at least manage to create killer apps for their take on motion control. The Playstation Move has sadly failed to provide a title that can really sell the system, with Heavy Rain: Move Edition probably the highlight of the bunch, and even that was probably better with a controller in your hands.

Plastic Studios's Datura aims to provide a unique experience that you can't get anywhere else and, to be fair, they succeed more or less. It's just a shame that the game itself isn't particularly good.

You begin the game stretched out on a collapsible gurney in the back of an ambulance. After waggling the Move wand to pull the blanket back, it's a matter of aligning the hand onscreen with the pads on the EKG and yanking them from your chest with the wand.

Not longer after, you find yourself in a forest, and it's here that most of the two-hour game takes place. You drift from point of interest to point of interest, interacting with objects and solving incredibly simple puzzles wherever necessary. Typically these may involve filling a jug with water and pouring it into another jug, or pelting a pig with potatoes so you can wake your porky chum and have him scamper through some previously impassable bracken. One area sees you having a crack at an old-fashioned air rifle shooting gallery, another has you winching water up from a well.

Datura Review | Tech Demotional

A number of these seemingly unconnected tasks lead to narrative flashback, or psychotic episodes depending on your outlook, one of which sees you driving a car at night. The game never really explains how things link together, but most of these narrative encounters lead to a binary choice - usually a good or bad option, light and dark, black and white.

Everything is conducted via the Move wand, no navigation controller required. Wafting about will shift your perspective, with the camera controlled by holding down X. Holding the main button has you step forward (unfortunately at a hideously slow pace), the circle button has you shuffle backwards, with constant triangle prompts notifying you of points of interest, and interactive elements. Hold down to be pointed towards something of note, and press again to zoom in once close by.

Once in front of an object or artefact, a hand appears on screen, begging to be manipulated by the wand. The fingers dance across surfaces realistically, the disembodied hand itself a tangible element, with a pleasant amount of feedback via the Move's control function. You can stroke the white trees scattered sparingly throughout the forest to uncover more of your small map. You'll turn the Move on its side to simulate door handles, provide the basis for a winch, and help conjure up the image of a steering wheel.

Datura Review | Tech Demotional

The forest itself is charmingly rendered, if a little small and sparse. Bugs and butterflies constantly pester you, and a typically wistful, yet decidedly unassuming and sadly rather forgettable soundtrack accompanies the slow-moving action. But you explorations are limited, the puzzles as basic as can be, and the Move functionality struggles to match early Wii games for imagination.

Worst of all are the narrative episodes and supposed moral quandaries that aim to form the emotional core of this very brief experience. There's no context, and yet rather specific events take place. Of course, these are left open to personal determination, but there are too few signposts, too few hooks, and these scenes are simply left for the gamer to decide what to make of them. As part of a cohesive product, wherein all of the game's elements work in harmony with one another to create a compelling, immersive eperience, that might work, but that's just not possible here.

The use of the Playstation Move undermines as much as enhances this game's experience. Yes, the connection between the virtual hand and the Move wand is well implemented, but it's nothing we haven't really seen before. Motion control, and the frustrations that come with it, cannot hope to sustain immersion unless in a game that truly embraces the larger-than-life gestures associated with such interaction. Sadly, that's just not a good combination for a game built around subtlety.

Datura Review | Tech Demotional

It's a very short game, and it would have been shorter if the pace with which you moved was actually set at a decent speed. But whilst the eight or so flashback provide for some decision making, there's not really a huge reason to go back. The slow pace simply draws attention to the fact that the world is not terribly affecting, and the moments that try to force that come undone without a context that is neither provided by the game, nor encouraged from the player.

The prevailing desire behind Datura was for players to be able to make their way through it in a single sitting, with the game hopefully provoking meaningful chat, and discussions regarding the set-pieces, much as one might after a thought-provoking film. But sadly this is not the case. Datura doesn't really do anything out of the ordinary. For an artistic title looking to create a unique experience, it falls down in the most crucial area possible...by being lamentably forgettable.

NB. It is possible to play this game without a PS Move and just use the SIXAXIS...but we'd advise against doing that, because it's crap.

Pros

  • Atmospheric environment
  • Looks lovely
  • Solid Move implementation

Cons

  • But nothing particularly new
  • Moral choices have no impact
  • Ultimately forgettable

The Short Version: Datura comes over as something of a glorified tech demo. It looks gorgeous, and the visual and aural aesthetics do a good job of creating atmosphere, but there's little to actually enjoy. Overly simplistic puzzles, obvious Move mechanics, and moral set-pieces with little impact sadly serve up something functional, but all too easy to forget.

Datura Review | Tech Demotional

Add a comment4 comments
DivideByZero  May. 11, 2012 at 21:27

Move is such a great tech (leaps ahead of Kinect IMO) but all the good games for it are Wii-esque fun games... shame this was not the one.

wquach  May. 12, 2012 at 09:05

As always, great review Matt. But I do want to ask what "killer apps" for Kinect you speak of because to be fair, nothing has jumped out for me regarding its games. I find both the Move and Kinect to lack any killer apps. Dance Central? Fruit Ninja? Both 'Meh' and not worth having a whole new system/peripheral for. Even the most recent Star Wars Kinect was an absolute disappointment, and I'll be honest, I've had more fun with Move use in games like Auditorium, Tumble, Killzone 3, Time Crisis and Child of Eden than I've had with Kinect.

Whether Sorcery turns out to be that "killer app" for Move remains to be seen - my money's on it being only an above average game but at least having the Move elements down.

All in all, the motion control revolution across all three platforms this generation have been a waste of potential and overall cheap cash grabs at a larger audience/appeal to non-gamers.

Last edited by wquach, May. 12, 2012 at 09:06
MattGardner  May. 12, 2012 at 16:09

Whilst arguably critically lamentable (I'm still refusing to purchase a Kinect at this current time), I think that Kinect has been more of a commercial success for Microsoft than perhaps Move has for Sony. There are titles that have shown well in the charts (Kinect Star Wars being the most recent), and Microsoft has done a good job of managing to distinguish itself enough from the Wii to provide a viable family-oriented platform with truly unique experiences.

Microsoft have been determined to push for Kinect-only experiences - gunning for unique games that you cannot find anywhere else - something that I'm not sure can be said of the Move, which has proven to be rather more supplemental than flagship tech. Microsoft have tried to stuff Kinect into people's faces - and there's been something of a Marmite effect, but at least in their eyes it gets people talking. Move, on the other hand, almost seems like simple base-covering on Sony's part.

That said, I'm in utter agreement with you regarding the wasted potential for motion control. Outside of ushering in some creative exercise and dancing my ass off, I struggle to think of a motion control experience that has been particularly special (for me personally), save for that initial honeymoon period when all you really needed for some party fun was a Wii and a copy of Wii Sports.

wquach  May. 12, 2012 at 17:09

Oh, no doubt Kinect has been a huge commercial success for Microsoft, something that can't be said about the Move. It seemed like both Microsoft and Sony wanted to go with their respective motion control devices to not feel left out of some missed opportunity they felt was necessary when the Wii came into the scene and dominated sales charts.

What Sony seemed to go for was in fact like you mentioned, a supplemental add-on that I assume was intended more as a means for people to ease into purchasing the Move as if like another controller or peripheral, something that would be easier on people's wallets ($50 if an Eye was already owned, or $80 with both Eye and Move) than say a $150 camera. But it backfired for them because it struggled to be seen as anything but a Wii clone or something *necessary* that had to be bought to enjoy games that already could be played using the standard DualShock.

I enjoy Move over Kinect from the precision alone, but it hasn't been a commercial success because it really came down to marketing and Kinect had that in spades: http://www.gamespot.com/news/microsoft-to-spend-500m-on-kinect-marketing-report-6282208

Microsoft pushed Kinect as hard as they could and it paid off, whether the games or whatever 'killer apps' it actually has backs up the purchase/necessity of the device. In honesty, I know of several Kinect users who bought into that marketing and have since not bought a single game for it beyond say, Dance Central. But I feel like regardless of whether people would buy Kinect games or not (which they still do as evidenced by Kinect Star Wars), Microsoft's plan was essentially to implant one into every household. Goal succeeded: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/331597/xbox-360-sales-top-66-million-kinect-18-million/

18+ million Kinects sold. As to how many games purchased per unit though, it seems to more or less average...1, which indicates that there really isn't many apps worth purchasing for it: http://www.joystiq.com/2011/03/09/microsoft-10-million-kinect-units-kinect-games-sold/

It seems that at this point, Microsoft has been pushing the Kinect more as an entertainment device than something for games. I feel like its voice recognition, movie/Netflix features and integration with other Xbox apps are what drives continual sales or appeal to the mass public.

I feel like heading into the next generation of consoles, it's not the input devices that need innovation or tweaking or trying to break from the norm (cough cough Wii U), it's back to the fundamentals that matter -- the games. This generation has seen an onslaught of sequels, FPSs, and relatively few standout titles that have changed the gaming landscape/medium.

There are many factors to this to be sure (like higher production costs, risky ventures into starting a new IP, trying to achieve CoD sales, etc.), but that's still no excuse to not even try producing original titles that can ultimately payoff both critically and commercially: http://www.destructoid.com/journey-is-officially-the-fastest-selling-psn-game-ever-224753.phtml

I'm eager to see how next gen pans out -- for now, I'm slowly becoming more and more immersed with indie games and appreciating what they offer from the console scene as of late.

Last edited by wquach, May. 12, 2012 at 17:11

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