Well, that was…interesting.

The datura plant is a beautiful white flower known for its often deadly hallucinogenic properties; and in game developer Plastic’s newest release, players are thrust headfirst into the beautiful yet mysterious woods of Datura.

In this Playstation Network exclusive, you embark on a journey through beautifully dark woods sparingly populated with the pristine datura flower.  As you travel the winding paths, unusual events and illusions begin to occur weaving together pieces of a twisted, artistic and drug induced tale.

Awakening in an ambulance, the game begins with your intentional death. As you re-awaken in the beautiful woods, golden brown foliage lies densely underfoot and leaves, bugs and butterflies float through the air riding the wind. Ancient and youthful trees line and create pathways in which for you to explore as well as many additional oraments such as a stone statue, a small cabin, an old well and a garden-esque fountain.

As you examine various white trees scattered about the area, they will aid in the completion of your hand drawn map. Additionally, some obstacles and delusions appear effortlessly while others require a bit more deductive thinking; but pay attention to your surroundings, it is nothing you haven’t seen before.

These drug induced delusions are the main attraction of this piece and oftentimes force you to make a distinct decision. For example, after discovering an old hollowed out tree stump and removing an ornate stone mask from the side, you find a pick axe. As you touch the tool you are suddenly thrust into a frozen oasis where beneath the ice you can just barely make out some form of treasure to one side and a hand pushing at the ice desperately for escape to the other. What do you do…or do you do anything at all?

Datura is a game for people looking for a unique experience. It is a beautiful game both in scenery and story that gives you enough pieces of the puzzle but never a full picture. In many ways, the game is left open to interpretation…and that is exactly as it should be. Even the main character is seen only through the first person, aside from the occasional glimpses of hand and arms and a few muffled sounds; all in all helping to completely immerse you in the overall experience.

The soundtrack of the game melds perfectly into the arcane atmosphere. From complete silence to haunting string melodies to frantic orchestral runs; the music assists in transcending the gap between realities as you find yourself holding your breath as you peer through a doorway to your heart racing as you eagerly try to make it through another episode.

The presentation, concept and artistry of Datura are impressive; a drug induced trip through eerily beautiful woods where every decision can distinctly alter the scenery depending on your own selfishness. However, this game is severely held back from what it could be by its game mechanics.

The game play is not broken, but it is nothing like it should be for a title of this nature. Making use of either the Playstation move controller or the dualshock 3, neither truly can master the experience as one or the other will only excel in certain aspects yet remained flawed in the other. In a game where, aside from basic walking/running, your entire premise lies within touching and movement control it should work better than it does. Instead you will find yourself frustratingly moving the on screen hand, waving around trees and other statues, and mercilessly hitting buttons on the controller in hopes that it will grab/push/smash/twist/anything.  After running around the first area of the game, you will become more accustomed to the control scheme and what to do; but knowing what to do and making it happen are two very different things.

Additionally, mindless instructions appear accomplishing very little besides breaking your concentration, disrupting your immersion and offering little worthwhile advice. For example, in looking at a door covered by boards and holding a crowbar in my hand, the direction meaninglessly told me to ‘twist the controller to move the crowbar’…okay? Sure, I knew I had to use the crowbar to pry the boards off the door, but figuring out which direction to put what and twist where didn’t come until some time had passed. There will also be times you will want to do something, but the control will simply not be there to support it your first time through the game.

Only taking about 90 minutes from start to finish, the game could easily be played a few times through in order to make different choices and see their effects – that is, if anyone wants to battle the cumbersome controls again to do so.

Overall, Datura is a beautiful and unique gaming experience with an innovative premise and a story left to the interpretation of the player; however, the lack of controls and flawed game play harm the game to a point of wondering if it is worth playing at all.

“In the middle of our life’s walk, I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight wood was lost” ~ Dante

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