Datura preview first-look - Your hand is the avatar

PlayStation Move has been adapted for many things, from the obvious light gun shooter and motion-based sports to the less obvious (and out of left-field) non-traditional games like JS Joust. But it hasn’t seen the touch of demoscene developers, whose interactive art titles like Linger in Shadows and .detuned proved both confusing to gamers and satisfying to trophy hunters, alike. Enter Datura, a title that tries a new take on motion controlled games.

What is it? Datura, also the name of a flower, is a Move-centric title that is designed to give you a degree of extra physicality to participate in an abstract experience. Its approach to motion control definitely takes a different tack compared to what’s already out.

Who is the developer? Plastic Studios is a Poland-based dev studio that worked on the 2009 PSN exclusive Linger in Shadows.

How does it look? It depicts nature and environments with a relative simplicity, which isn’t to say that it’s a bad-looking game at all. It’s a bit reminiscent of avant-garde film, in regard to the cinematic look and layout, as well as the moments when you encounter strange creatures. Your character is represented with a floating hand, which reaches out and interacts with the environment around him. It’s an intriguing motif that adds a “gamey” feel to the experience.

How does it play? We used the Move controller as our character’s right hand. As he woke up on an ambulance stretcher, we removed the EKG readers from his chest, then flashed back (or forward?) to a dreamlike forest. We walked through the forest, discovered that he can touch white trees to heal and learn directives, and that he writes with a notepad to take notes when he needs to draw and analyze his next movements.

We found a carnival exhibit, and used the controls to participate in some minigames by tossing a baseball at some bottles. Later on, we encountered a pig, and after waking it up and chasing it into a burrowed hole, the action shifted over to a hard-to-control car on a rainy night, and as we hit a pig in the road, it caused a massive accident. Afterwards, we faced down some unsavory choices, such as whose hand to sever when handcuffed to another person stuck behind a barrier with only a bandsaw to do the job.

But here’s the rub. We struggled with the controls more than we did with the meaning of the subject matter. Granted, we’re usually open to different play styles and non-traditional games. But we also had to wrestle with re-calibration and unresponsive motion controls. A maneuver as simple as turning a doorknob was a test of our patience, since it took roughly two minutes of wrestling with the button and hand movements to finally hit the sweet spot.

Turning our character took some very exaggerated gestures, and it felt like a struggle against the rest of the experience. Instead of appreciating the game for what it's trying to express, we were more distracted by our inability to get it working. We understand that it's a game in progress, but we definitely hope that the team at Plastic is fine-tuning certain elements. We’re definitely interested in trying out a properly-calibrated version of it in the future, but as first impressions go, it was rough to play.

When is it out? According to Plastic Studios, you can expect Datura later this year.

Update: It's out and we've played it! Read our Datura review.

Sterling McGarvey