Publisher: Sony Santa Monica / Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Point and Click, Puzzle
Developed by Sony Santa Monica, Datura, named after a hallucinogenic flower, is strange from the get go. The game opens with a quote from Dante - “In the middle of our life’s walk I found myself in a dark wood for the straight road was lost.”. Which, according to producer Jan Kuczynski, is what Datura is all about. And its true, the game is about being lost in a forest. And I was well and truly lost by this game.
The plot, if there's anything so consistent as such, appears to be that you are dying or dreaming, slipping from one world to another. Its predominantly set in a decaying Edwardian forest garden, with statues and hedge mazes. Other worlds include a forest clearing replete with carnival games. Or the back of an ambulance or paddywagon. Or a 1970s swimming pool. The jumps are usually hinged on solving a puzzle, so they make a certain amount of sense, but they are jarring and in the case one one psychedelic tunnel ride that started as following a pig under a tree stump (yeah its like that), drawn out and nonsensical. You die regularly (I was shot, drowned, thrown down a well, strangled, electrocuted, and hit by a truck), which are often used as a transition. Often they shift game play from one style to another, just as you were getting used to it. Perhaps its an attempt to keep an otherworldly feel, but I found it pulling the rug out from under me just as I was getting comfy.
The visual interface, distinct as it is, takes from the immersion of the game. The main interface of the game, your right hand, hovers about the screen, oddly disembodied and severed at the wrist. That would make some sense but for the fact that when your left hand is shown on screen (such as when you fall to the ground or land out of the bottom of a swimming pool water slide), it is clearly attached to your body via a wrist. Also, I'm not a huge fan of first person perspective in game, and while it doesn't suffer from the “midget on a skateboard” effect of most first person games, this instead feels like you're being hoisted about in a harness. Datura is beautiful, but its very superficial, creating a digital delirium without much substance.
The game is intended for the PS Move, though you can use the PS3 controller. Expect to wave it about a lot (and be thankful its wireless), and often the controls are frustrating and unclear. I spent twenty minutes waving a crowbar at some planks, only to succeed by accident. A number of puzzles are “solved” that way, after many minutes uncoordinated flailing. There are a number of features I did like, such as running being a rapid combination of R2 and L2, but for every neat trick, I found my disembodied hand floating about weird and disconcerting.
The game is wonderful to look at and listen to, but like many artistic projects, perhaps too highbrow to be anything more than a novel concept.
Rent or Buy: Download Only
Reviewed by: Baz Nugent