Datura PSN review
When I first started covering Datura I kept referring to it as ‘that weird Move game with the pig’. Now, having played it five or six times the best description I can come up with is it’s still ‘that weird Move game with the pig’. This is an oddly surreal, hard to pin down first person adventure that might be taking place in a dying man’s mind. Or not. The only thing I can absolutely be sure of is that there definitely is a pig in it.
It’s simultaneously interesting, incomprehensible, captivating and disappointing. At its best it gives you a taste of how a Move-controlled point and click adventure would play – one where you physically manipulate and manhandle objects with a disembodied hand floating on screen. At its worst it’s a baffling set of unconnected tech demos that have you sawing, cranking and grabbing your way through a mysterious forest.
It’s a deliberately obtuse tale: you begin in an ambulance pulling the sensors from your chest before you black out and wake up in a leaf strewn forest. From there on in it’s mystery time as you explore and uncover a series of strange elements and objects to interact with. I don’t want to give too much away because part of what makes this interesting is the head scratching wandering and discovery.
The Move controls work well and it’s one of the game’s strengths that it uses the technology for more than shooting or bat waving. The floating hand moves precisely in three dimensions and various tasks like turning handles, manipulating bottles or using a crowbar to hook and pull planks from a door are satisfyingly executed. To get around you simply look in the direction you want to go and press the Move button. Even without a Move controller this makes good use of the SixAxis to waft, turn and yank your way through.
Walking around the trees and seeing what you can find is intriguing, just not for very long. It’s so brief. Barely an hour long on my first playthrough. However, that said, I did go back and play it a further five times as I discovered several of the things you encounter have different outcomes. These are absolutely black and white – be good or be nasty – but they have an effect on the final moments of the game and it’s interesting to see the effects of your actions.
The shortness of the game actually works in its favour here as once you know where you’re going you can get through it all again in 45 minutes or so. One virgin playthrough followed by an ‘all good’ and ‘all bad’ rerun and you’ll probably hit three hours.
It’s definitely more an experience than game and it is an intriguing one. Although it’s hard to tell whether the surreality of what you encounter is deliberate or more the result of a game design brainstorming session to decide what could be done with a Move controller. There’s no underlying symbolism. The pig is just a pig. The sequences are utterly random and do suggest it’s more a collection of unconnected Move demos than anything else – there’s only one real puzzle, the rest of what you discover are more a series of short interactive vignettes.
While it’s short there is some interesting imagery (although visually the polish varies between adequate and woefully poor) and with an open mind it’s a fascinating experience you’ll mull over for a while. I did actually want more which only made the sudden ending such a disappointment. Just as you’re warming to its Lynchian mystery it’s over. I’d jump on a full sized, more developed game in this vein and I hope someone makes it but for all its bizarre otherworldliness Datura plays like a free tech demo and at £6.49 it’s a fascinating but overpriced experiment.