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.
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.
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.
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.
- Atmospheric environment
- Looks lovely
- Solid Move implementation
- 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.