Given the superb outside-of-the-box thinking that has brought gamers amazing and emotional moments seen in the likes of Journey or Limbo, any developer that breaks from the norm is bound to garner itself attention. In this aspect it is forgivable, almost acceptable to deliver a relatively short gaming experience that packs a significant punch. But what happens when an albeit short and decidedly different take goes horribly wrong? Then a few mere hours can seem like a painful eternity in purgatory and that’s what you’re going to get with Datura.
Datura is named after a white flowering plant with hallucinogenic qualities that helps reinforce the trippy nature of the game. You kick off your adventure in the back of an ambulance and after getting a little defibrillator jolt and an epinephrine needle straight to the heart you wake up in a mysterious fog-covered forest. With no idea where you are or what you need to do you begin your exploration to find your way back to reality.
As far as set ups and intrigue go, Datura will definitely pique your interest as you wonder what the hell is going on. As you navigate through this apparent dream world you’ll come across various entities, statues, animals and downright insane scenarios that will have you scratching your head in disbelief. Uncovering and exploring objects often trigger episodes requiring you to make a choice with repercussions you might not see immediately. The choices you make help formulate the story and open up a decent amount of replayability options, unfortunately you‘ll be lucky if you actually make it through a single playthrough.
It has been designed, and I use that term loosely, to capitalise on the PlayStation Move’s functionality. You interact with the environment via an Addams Family “Thing” styled hand. As you touch various objects and manipulate them you can explore them further with the hand breaking off sections, prying open doors, picking locks or merely making tactile contact with trees to increase your synergy with the environment and help fill out the blank notepad you’re using as a map. The controller vibrates with increasing intensity to let you know if you’re moving in the right direction.
These are all solid ideas, in theory, however, the execution is so shoddy and frustrating you’ll spend most of your time not wondering what you need to do but trying to work how to make the controls get you there. Switching to the SIXAXIS controller fares no better with neither option giving a decent sense of depth or manoeuvrability. It was a remarkable fail across the board.
There was a lot I wanted to like about Datura. The story makes you want to proceed and figure out what the hell is going on. I really dug the artistic direction as well as the minimal yet effective sound design, but the horrendous controls took away any moments of enjoyment leaving only an incredible and almost bubbling feeling of frustration. It boggles my mind that such an inherently flawed and unresponsive control scheme could get the green light and be utilised for any title, let alone a PSN downloadable release. It raises questions on how rushed out the final product was and how extensively it was play-tested. No much by my reckoning.
All the potential in the world and a bag of chips still only gets you a bag of chips. Datura reeks of under-utilised and squandered potential, making the end result even more disappointing. If you’re looking for a moving and immersive title to add to your collection Datura isn’t it. Spend your money on Journey instead.