As a family of plants, Datura has been used for centuries as a poison and hallucinogen. With effects such as being unable to differentiate reality from fantasy, it has often been used with the intention of bringing about some form of delirium. As it turns out, Datura (in video game form), the latest release from Polish developer Plastic, lives up to this description fairly well. Designed to be played with either Playstation Move or a SixAxis controller, Datura begins with players waking up in a strange forest following a confusing beginning in the back of an ambulance. Featuring puzzle-solving and exploration gameplay in a similar vein to the Myst series, is Datura a trip you should go on?
Audio-Visual Hallucinations - Although some of the visuals on offer in Datura are particularly mediocre, the realisation of the forest and some of the trippier elements of the game are well executed, being both surreal and mundane in equal measure. Coupled with some rousing and scene-setting music, Datura’s game-world is a welcoming yet unsettling place. The crunch of dead leaves under your feet sounds realistic and is just as fun as crunching leaves in real-life, and the music works wonders in both making you feel accomplished after solving a puzzle, and uneasy as you explore a previously unseen region of the forest.
Once in a Lifetime - From the first moment that you wake up in the forest, to the point where you leave, Datura will have you questioning exactly just what is happening. Whilst you will still have questions when you finish the game (and you will, as you can’t fail any of your tasks), the journey of getting through the forest is one of the more unique experiences that I’ve had in gaming recently. For those bemoaning the lack of originality in modern-day gaming, I’d suggest Datura as a counter-argument.
Hand-Eye Coordination - As I don’t have room in my apartment to be flailing around with a Move controller, I played Datura with a standard SixAxis, and I must admit that prior to this, I had actually forgotten about the actual SixAxis functionality, as little has it been used recently. Having finished Datura, I kind of wish that SixAxis had stayed forgotten, as such a poor job was done of implementing it. One particular incident had me almost put the game down in disgust and write a scathing review based solely on that one point. For those who’ve played the game, or for those yet to, I will say one word. Crowbar. You will know what I am talking about when you get to that point. A complete lack of instruction, coupled with incredibly poor implementation of motion control, led to a section that was nigh-on unplayable and was only bested by frustrated waving of the controller in random directions. Whilst the controls for the remainder of the game never quite reached the lows of this one point, they never passed the dizzy heights of mediocre either.
Purple Haze - One thing that Datura lacks is a sense of direction. I’m not sure how intentional this is on the part of the developer, but it can be incredibly frustrating when you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be doing, either as part of a puzzle or in the game as a whole. Each puzzle is often followed by an ‘experience’, where you are given the option of performing certain actions, which will give you either a white or black dot on your map, depending on the morality of your choice and its consequences. However, these choices aren’t clearly outlined, and it’s not even particularly evident that the choices that you do make have any impact on the game, aside from who shows up in the end sequence. Mystery and intrigue is all well and good, but confusion is one step too far.
Datura is one of those games that is particularly difficult to review. On one hand, it’s an experience that I feel every gamer should be exposed to, but on the other, it’s a fairly mediocre game that I can’t really recommend to anyone. Datura feels more like a series of linked tech demos than a complete gaming experience, and even these incidences are incredibly hit and miss in their execution. The narrative (if it can be called that, because I may have just imposed my own interpretations on to what was happening) is fairly interesting, and the world as a whole is quite unique in its realisation, but the glaring technical flaws just can’t be ignored. Datura is certainly a worthwhile experiment, but unfortunately fails in its execution.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*