In Murasaki Baby, you are tasked with leading a small child to find her mother in a dark and creepy world.
The Vita title reveals a character on screen, a baby-thing with an inverted head carrying a pink balloon. You may not be sure what to make of her at the start but when she cries and pines for her mother and rushes out into the world, you’ll soon realise you are all she has.
So you take her by the hand and lead her through a series of strange, wonderful and terrifying worlds where danger lurks everywhere and the slightest mis-step could spell her doom.
As this is a Vita game, you’ll literally be able to take Baby’s hand – just touch her on the screen and move away and her tiny digits will be gripped, stretching out from her body and causing her to totter along behind. Slow is safest but faster is better, that is until you go to far and cause her to trip.
As you move, you’ll have to coax the baby along, while also taking care to preserve the life of her balloon. There’s also a mechanic which sees you earning new powers and sliding on the rear touchpad to select them before tapping the touchpad to activate it.
In this way, the game is split up into minor puzzles involving navigation and power use. It’s never all that challenging but when you add in the complication of moving the baby and fiddling with different powers it can sometimes get a little overwhelming.
Take situations where you have to manipulate something on screen, like a giant head that will crush our heroine if we don’t move it. you’ll find yourself touching the head to raise it up then dragging baby past, only for your field of view to shift until you’re not touching the enemy anymore. Cue crushed baby thing.
The controls don’t help either – mainly due to the constant swapping between the rear touchpad and screen. To use the first screen you have to hold the Vita with one hand, making for an awkward angle with your other hand as you’re trying to swipe and tap.
Beyond that, the fundamentals of Murasaki Baby can be extremely frustrating. Leading the baby around is no doubt supposed to be difficult, emulating real-life tiny humans but the combination of balloon and hand-holding led to a few too many needless deaths for me. I also experienced a check pointing problem which saw me pushed back to the start of a level, adding many more minutes to the short running time of the game – which only lasts about three hours.
But developers Ovosonico have done some really interesting things here too. The connection to the playable character is more engaged than in many games, where you just have to use the controller to progress. Every screen is a minor struggle here, giving you a sense of accomplishment when you succeed.
The baby character is also wonderfully wrought and compellingly crafted. She burbles along for the most part, excited about potential leaps and more often than not full of giggles when you accidentally slap her in the face. More than anything, you want her to find her mother and you’ll come back for one more try to make sure she succeeds.
It’s also an incredibly dark title at times, though it’s mostly kept to the periphery. Other children appear in the frame from time to time as well as excellent sound design cues and more which hint at horrors like domestic abuse and abandonment. Viewed through the creep-tastic visuals and with the benefit of headphones it’s a compelling world and another unique title for the Vita.
Murasaki Baby makes the most of its Vita controls to instil a real connection between player and character and you’ll genuinely sorry everytime you fail to help her in her quest to find her mother. And this mostly manages to paint over the cracks in the interface, especially coupled with the incredible presentation on offer. But the short running time is still probably for the best.
Available from the 16th of September on PSN. Coming to the EU store on the 17th for €9.99.