Santa Monica Studios only seem to deal in AAA download titles these days and with a stable that already includes Journey, Escape Plan, Flow and Flower is the intriguing title Datura set to join the elite and become yet another jewel in the SCE crown? Read on to find out.
Developer: Plastic/Sony Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Datura literally starts as it means to go on as you wake from a near death haze in the back of an ambulance travelling under a flash of emergency sirens. Before you know it the defibrillator is out and it’s down the rabbit hole you go on one of the most obscure gaming journey’s I’ve ever witnessed.
The core of Datura is based in an eerie forest which along with your ever evolving map will guide your progress around the games puzzles, trials and nonsensical content. These trials are triggered by sudden hallucinogenic flashbacks which transport you to what appear to be completely random scenarios. This ranges from throwing potatoes at sleeping pigs, manning a gun turret in WWII, an incident on a water park slide and an endless fall through darkness accompanied by hard Dutch techno. Datura is, in a word, unique.
Now, I’m all for a bit of mystique but Datura really is something else and if you have any idea what’s going on at any stage during your time with it then you’re a better man than me. At times Datura feels more like a psych analysis than a game and it’s one you feel like you’re failing. There isn’t any kind of narrative to speak of either, it’s just you and the games mind boggling design for company – a scary thought.
Datura is fully Playstation Move compatible and the actions you undertake are perfectly suited to what Move should be trying to accomplish in a title like this. Sadly, it’s clumsily implemented and even performing the most mundane of tasks like opening doors becomes a frustrating fumble of inaccuracy. Chances are you’ll be back to the trusty Sixaxis in no time at all which is where the best control experience is to be had in Datura. It’s just a real shame it’s by default and not by design.
The way your character moves is also somewhat of an issue because of the incredible weight you feel even whilst walking. This fits Datura’s pacing well but as you plod through the forest in search of clues, retracing old steps verges on pure annoyance far too frequently. Movement is controlled solely by the left stick too so there’s no looking left or right without turning either, it’s an old school design which probably has no place in today’s gaming.
Visually Datura is far from photo realistic but then it’s not really trying to be. The graphics are stylised and whilst there are some poor representations of other human characters, the game is actually really atmospheric which is further enhanced by the haunting audio. You won’t have a clue what’s going on but you will feel immersed in Datura’s crazy world and for a game so obtuse, that’s some feat.
The games puzzles are well formed without ever being too taxing but it’s the subtle choice system which adds further depth to the unwieldy maze of content. You never feel like you’re making a choice until you’ve already taken your path which is a really difficult mechanic to disguise. It’s also the main reason to replay Datura because as ambiguous as it is, it does have many secrets to reveal if you can look past the lack of any coherent story or message.
Datura is short though, very short in fact and it’s certainly a game designed to be played in one sitting. That’s no bad thing as far as the experience goes because it adds tremendously to the immersive impact but it is difficult to recommend on a value for money front if that’s your concern.
Datura is like nothing I’ve ever played before and that in itself makes it an interesting but difficult title to recommend. It’s design is so aloof that it borders on un-playable because you simply have no idea what’s going on, but that’s clearly by choice and in that sense Plastic have succeeded at providing one of the most unique titles of this generation.
Datura reminds me a lot of Myst which is certainly not a bad thing either and its crazy world is steeped in the same atmospheric grandeur. Datura certainly won’t be for everyone, but you almost have to play it to experience the sheer madness of it. Very rarely will a game leave me speechless, but even after finishing Datura, I iliterally have no idea what to tell you.
There is nothing like Datura on the PlayStation Store right now and even though it’s more of an experiment than a game, it’s one you miss at your peril.
Datura is available to purchase via the PlayStation Store now.