What's going on?
What’s more, the storyline and the puzzles have a meaning so opaque that it’s hard to make any sense of them beyond a general surreal or creepy feeling. Who is that guy? What’s up with the butterflies? Who’s that kid? Why does doing that open that door? What on Earth is going on? We’ve no doubt that Datura means a lot to someone somewhere.
You can argue that the game follows a dream logic rather than any real world chain of cause and effect, and if you like deciphering oddball works of art then there’s plenty to theorize about here. Is Datura about life, death, free-will, or just something else altogether?
Search us. All we know is that some actual characters, some more hints and a little substance beneath all the atmosphere would make Datura that bit more engaging on an emotional and intellectual level – not to mention more enjoyable to actually play.
There is no questioning the atmosphere. The forest scenery has a beautiful look that’s part fairy-tale, part dream and part nightmare, while the music reinforces the whole sense that something’s going on here, even if you don’t fully comprehend it yet. A few character models look rough close-up, but Plastic, the team behind Datura, knows what it’s doing on a technical and cinematic level.
But, overall, Datura goes down as a fascinating failure. It’s such an interesting failure that you might want to play it anyway, but it feels like a failure all the same. As a game, it’s too basic and frustrating to grip, and at around ninety minutes in length, both too short and – curiously – too long, unable to hold your attention for the duration. As an experience, it’s too remote and inaccessible to hook the imagination and keep players engaged. It’s the sort of game we’d love to love, but end up feeling unsatisfied with: a stylish and original enigma, but not actually that great a way to spend your time.
For all its ingenuity and creepy arthouse movie vibe, Datura doesn’t really work as a piece of interactive fiction or as a game. It looks amazing and there are more genuine ideas at play than you’ll find in a dozen big-name action blockbusters, but with no gameplay or narrative hooks to keep you playing it’s an experience that will leave most players baffled, bewildered or simply bored.