- Stylish graphics
- Creepy atmosphere
- Simplistic gameplay
- What on Earth is it all about, anyway?
Review Price £6.49
Available to download from PSN
Datura is weird, interesting, innovative and self-consciously arty. With just a few minor graphical niggles it looks stunning, and it has all the right influences in place. In terms of other games it feels closest to Heavy Rain and Myst, with motion controlled actions designed to give you an almost tangible connection to the protagonist, and the kind of exploration, mystery and puzzle-solving that made the classic adventure game and its sequels so beloved.
If we’re talking films, then it’s not a million miles away from prime David Lynch or the creepier variety of European art film. In short, those of us who love intelligent, arty games ought to love Datura and be lauding it to the heavens as one of the gaming highlights of the year.
Instead, we’re left with a sense of mild disappointment. Datura isn’t awful, and at times you can see hints of the exceptional game it might have been. When it’s good, it’s a fascinating game, but it can also be frustrating, annoying and wilfully opaque. In a way, it’s a classic "Marmite" game, but we can see more people going through it and saying “What the heck was all that about?” than coming out the other side having had some incredible,
The Datura Experience
Like the much more successful Journey, Datura is all about the experience, and any description we can offer won’t really give you the full picture. The game plays out in the first person, and starts with the game’s unseen protagonist in an ambulance before throwing you into its central location: a mysterious (not to mention foggy) autumnal forest. The forest paths lead you to a range of doorways, rotting carnival sideshows and assorted locations, objects, flora and fauna, and by solving simple puzzles you seem to trigger surreal visions that seem like snapshots of someone else’s life, or maybe the protagonist’s own.
However, to really get to grips with Datura, you also need to understand that it’s a showcase for Sony’s Move controller. You can play it with a standard Dual Shock, true, but if you do then you’re rather missing the point. Movement is actually handled very well through a mix of steering with the Move wand and pressing buttons to go forwards and back, while all the puzzles go big on physical interactions – grabbing and jerking handles, turning valves, tugging at planks and that sort of thing.
This can be extremely effective. As with Heavy Rain, your interactions with the controller are designed to mirror the actions in the game, and at times this close identification really works. What’s more, Datura is a game of moral choices, where key scenes allow you to choose between one approach and another.
However, there are probably more occasions where the motion controls get in the way, as you try to steer your disembodied hand to the right object, floundering to get a grip on it even though you know exactly what you’re meant to be doing. At times – and we really hate to say this – Datura had us wishing for good old-fashioned Quick Time Events. Can you imagine the levels of desperation that involves?