The DigestVideo

Games Of May 2012: Datura

Have a nice trip.

By John Teti • June 13, 2012

Check out the previous installments of this month’s Digest, in which we chew on Max Payne 3 and Diablo III.

With a couple of genre-based juggernauts under our belts, Drew and I wrap up this month’s Digest with Datura, a game named after a terrifying hallucinatory drug. This is one of those games that is so strange that once it starts to make a little sense, it’s almost a disappointment. I have to tip my hat to Sony for publishing an experimental oddity like this on the PS3.

Stay tuned for the bonus portion at the end in which Drew and I inspect my latest gray-market acquisition from the local games store, a device that promises to reawaken the joy of our collective childhood. Big talk, but I bet the Hyperkin Retron 3 can deliver.

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  • JudgeReinhold

    This seems as good a place as any to note that in Crusader Kings 2 I have abandoned the idea of playing as a single-county Spanish king, and restarted the game as an Irish duke. My first ruler wasn’t able to expand at all before dying, but his heirs Potato and Guiness have greatly expanded the realm. 

    And thanks to Hobbes MKII, who suggested I try something along those lines instead. If Leprechaun (son of Guiness, grandson of Potato) turns out to be a similarly talented ruler, he may end up as King of Ireland before he’s dead. 

    • HobbesMkii

      Yeah, Ireland was my first choice, too. In CK1, you had to have a firm grasp on the British Isles, or when the Mongols came, they’d wipe you out. 

      Also, one of the best parts is that, if you’ve actually named your rulers Potato, Guiness, and Leprechaun, those names will start appearing in your family randomly, within that save game.

      • JudgeReinhold

        Oh, I named them that (except Leprechaun, which will be my next child’s name when I get that chance). And there will be many more Irish stereotype-centric names to come. But I look forward to the game naming a future family member Domnall Ain Potato. That would give me great joy. 

        I mostly picked Ireland because I felt like it was easier to hide over there and be unmolested by the battles in England and Spain. 

  • ToddG

    I stayed tuned, only to find out that 

    *SPOILER*

    nobody eats the jelly doughnut!  Disappointing.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      First, you guys don’t eat the whole pizza bread. Now, you  don’t even try to eat the jelly donut. Gameological contributors are terrible snack-finishers! I DEMAND A REFUND.

      • ToddG

        ACHIEVEMENT MOST DEFINITELY NOT UNLOCKED.

  • HobbesMkii

    Having not played Max Payne 3, it seems like it’ll be an even bigger letdown to me now, having been a big Max Payne 2 fan. Sam Lake’s writing often involves weird visions and levels where absolutely strange things happen (that one in Max Payne 2 where he runs down his apartment’s never ending stairs, or the level in Alan Wake where your “enemies” are words that transform into what they are when you shine your flashlight on them), which really made those games for me. 

    • Aaron Riccio

      Yeah, I’m two chapters from the end of Max Payne 3 and there’s no flat-out reality bending, like the nightmare sequences from the original games (or, as you point out, in Alan Wake). But I’m actually a fan of the harsher (and blurred) vision in Max Payne 3; he’s slipping, especially into some rough memories of life in Hoboken, but never into the “safety” of a total break with reality. Treat it as Die Noir.

  • Enkidum

    “Why aren’t there more games like Datura [as opposed to rigid genre games]?”  Isn’t that a fairly simple question to answer? They’re hard to make, and risky for publishers, because most of them won’t sell well. Same answer as why most Hollywood films can be slotted into genre boxes very easily.

    • Aaron Riccio

      True of big-budget releases, sure: the AAA studios focus on tried-and-true formulas (though here’s hoping that Unreal 4 will help them push a little farther) because they have to sell. But there are beautiful, smaller games coming up all the time, like Splice, which I believe runs on the Unity engine, or Botanicula, which is its own oddball thing. The same goes for the general divide between Hollywood/independent films: is Datura, then, the Inception of film?

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    Be a jelly donut, eh? I’m sure there’s an “Ich bin ein Berliner” joke to be made somewhere. (Yeah, yeah, I know that in the context Kennedy said it, it couldn’t be interpreted as “I am a jelly donut.”)

    You touched on an interesting question in the video: why aren’t more games batshit insane? I don’t mean to imply that there’s a lack of creativity in modern gaming – even AAA development is bursting with creativity. But there’s definitely a dearth of, for lack of a better word, “wackiness,” even in the indie scene.

    Part of me wonders if this is a product of the trend towards realism in games, which doesn’t leave much room for the surreal. I mean, when you’re playing the latest Battlefield game, you’re not going to come across a giant talking mushroom that speaks with a Jamaican accent and spits radioactive waste in your face. But back in the mid-90′s, 3D mascot platformers were all the rage, and the cartoon art style of those games allowed them to remain untethered from reality. Furthermore, the structure of those games, with their hubs worlds linked to a set of unrelated levels, allowed designers to do some really nutty things with a couple of levels in each game. The end results was that most of the levels were your standard jungle or castle or cave level, but a few, like Super Mario 64′s Tick-Tock Clock or Donkey Kong 64‘s toy factory level, revelled in their wackiness and as a result felt wholly original. Later, in the mid-aughts, Psychonauts, a game very much in the spirit of the mid-90′s mascot platformer, gave us such levels as The Milkman Conspiracy and Black Velvetopia.

    I do enjoy a lot of games that opt for a more realistic style. But I also very much enjoy games that aren’t afraid to be crazy. It makes me hope for a resurgence of the 3D platformer, but for whatever reason, the genre seems to be dead now (apart from the upcoming Sly Cooper game, which is a PS3 exclusive anyway). I’ll keep hoping, I guess. Maybe some other genre of game will become the niche of wackiness in the future.

    Speaking of wacky things, I had to pause this video midway through to do something else, and this is the screencap I got. Teti, as usual, is up to no good.

    • Enkidum

      Hey, this is a way better answer! I hereby rescind mine.

    • George_Liquor

       Dude! Wanna play a batshit-insane game on a batshit-insane console? Check out Attack Of The Mutant Penguins for the Atari Jaguar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8p3eqsAzPc

    • caspiancomic

       I get what you’re saying, and lament the loss of the truly insane levels of yesteryear as well. I think the high water mark for crazy levels was set by the first two Earthworm Jim games, in which from one level to the next you might be travelling through space on a rocket ship, descending into the ocean in a bathysphere, climbing around mountains of paperwork in a bureaucracy, in hell (or heck, rather), inside the digestive tract of the final boss, running along a giant barbecue, or my favourite, travelling around a hazardous and murky underwater environment as a blind salamander before finishing the level with a totally unrelated game show segment and game of Simon.

      There is still a bit of the old spirit of 16-bit madness in modern games if you look in the right places. Heck, those mascots who survive to this day have a healthy dollop of insanity in their newer games. In Sonic Colours, just when you think that after fifteen years Sonic Team is surely out of ideas, they go and give you a level that’s made entirely out of candy.

      • ToddG

        Good call, EWJ is tough to beat.

  • Limeade Youth

    On behalf of the HR department, anyone wanna have a vote on whether they use drugs recreationally?

    • HobbesMkii

      Even if they do, based on the Wikipedia article, it sounds like it wouldn’t really overlap with datura that well. Wikipedia’s description reads like a nightmare. It seems like a poison, really, and less of a drug.

      • Swadian Knight

        On the other hand, Datura does give you +1 DT if you mix four of them with some Wonderglue at a workbench.

      • caspiancomic

         I’m looking forward to the next two parts of the Datura Trilogy: Scopolamine and Krokodil.

  • George_Liquor

    Ah, the Retron 3: Brilliant idea, lousy execution. I went through two of these suckers until I got one that worked. The bundled wireless controllers are pure crap, but you can connect original NES, SNES or Genesis controllers to it. It has s-video out, but that only works with the SNES & Genesis. To play NES games, you have to unplug the s-video cable & connect the composite, which looks worse than the original consoles. My biggest gripe with the Retron (besides the crappy build quality) is nearly every game I play on it seems a bit *off*. The Genesis & SNES games I have look fine, but they often sound wrong. The color palette for NES games seems off too, kinda like how they look when played on a PlayChoice arcade machine.

    Big, huge plus though: It’ll play Japanese Mega Drive, Famicom (with a Famicom adapter) and Super Famicom games.

    • HobbesMkii

      Umm…You mean: “Yes and it’ll play Japanese Mega Drive, Famicom (with a Famicom adapter) and Super Famicom games.”

      • George_Liquor

        Fine. …in addition to USA Genesis/NES/SNES games.

        Happy?

        • HobbesMkii

          I’m satiated.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Wow. Awesome review, even if it did make me sad.

      • George_Liquor

        Thanks!

        Don’t be sad. If you’re not insufferably anal like I am, the Retron 3 is the best way to play your Super Genintendo games without trying to get a 20+ year old console working again.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          You lost me at the part where I have to not be insufferably anal about old video games.

    • caspiancomic

       Is this a relatively new device, or is it contemporary with the Genesis and SNES? Because I find it kind of weird that a thing like this would exist. You can pick up all three of those consoles on the cheap off eBay or Craigslist or whatever, and they’ll probably work fine because the old systems were basically indestructible. My Genesis is like 15 years old and runs like a dream. Same controllers too: I had to replace my Dual Shock 2s like three or four times but the Genesis controllers were forged in the fires of Mount Doom.

      • George_Liquor

        It’s a brand-new console. Over the last several years, a whole cottage industry of Atari, Nintendo & Sega clones has popped up, with some being better than others. Build quality issues aside, the Retron 3 is probably one of the best clones available.

        The thing about eBay & Craigslist is you don’t really know what you’re getting until you take it home & plug it in. I’ve purchased several old consoles over the years, and nearly every one required some reconditioning. I’ve done everything from deep cleaning the thing to actually re-soldering chips & frankensteining one working console from two dead ones. With clones like the Retron, you at least get a warranty.

        • caspiancomic

           Fair enough point, I’ve never had a bad experience with purchasing an old console but I can see how that might happen. Sounds like you at least picked up some cool skill sets, I think the coolest things I’ve ever done to my consoles are clean the laser thing on a PS2 with a Q-Tip or fish dead beetles out of a NES cartridge slot.

          Although I did have to do this to my Dreamcast once. Works like a charm now.

          Actually since you mention combining two consoles together to make one pigeon-rat, do you think it would be possible to make one of these systems DIY style if you had the three functioning consoles already?

        • George_Liquor
      • blue vodka lemonade

        Maybe my sister just took extra-shitty care of it, but there’s a non-functioning Genesis in our basement that hasn’t been functional in at least eight years or so. Once in a while I want to play Sonic 2, and I can’t, and that’s the greatest tragedy of our modern age.

  • A_N_K

    GO DO SOME DRUGS

  • Tyler Mills

    To whoever cares:

    Weird games with a similar premise to Datura: LSD (PSX); Yume Nikki (PC); and Middens (PC).

    I haven’t played LSD. I have played Yume Nikki, it’s great in my opinion. Middens is not out yet but I will freakin’ play that stuff when it comes out. There are other Yume Nikki clones out there but I haven’t played them and do not recommend them.

    I do not claim this list is complete, feel free to add others.