Murasaki Baby Review – Lost and Scared (Vita)
Update: Ed. Note – Sony has made us aware that the final version of the game that is present on the PlayStation Network does not have the save bug indicated in the review. In talking with our reviewer, Dan indicated that this would not change his scoring of the game, but we wanted to make sure that our readers were aware that the save bug mentioned is not an issue in the final game. – Chandler W.
As we grow up, our ability to remember what it was like to be a child slowly fades away. Our arbitrary fears and the irrational emotions about the mysterious world around us force us to cling to our protectors, and for a great many of us, that meant our mothers. Murasaki Baby is about a lost little girl in search for her mother. Stuck in a world of her own fears, with no one to guide her but you.
Murasaki Baby is, at its heart, the story of the daily adventure children go through in rationalizing the world around them and the fears that overwhelm them when they are left alone. While not an overly lengthy title, weighing in at only a few hours of gameplay, there are handful of characters to meet along the way, each with a story of their own. But, with no real dialog in the game to explain things, figuring out the subtle text between characters is a unique story telling device and one that succeeds quite well.
Looking like it was taken directly from Edward Gorey or Tim Burton’s sketchbook, most of Murasaki Baby feels like an allegory for a much darker and meaningful series of events than are topically seen. Baby’s life is reliant on your ability to keep her heart shaped balloon from popping. But, at the same time, she will meet someone else, and you will be forced to pop their balloon to proceed. The meaning behind such actions are not explained, only experienced and I think that is simply elegant for a title like this.
This action then allows you to swipe the rear touch pad to modify the world with a series of different backdrops, and tap it for an effect to help guide you through this touch only 2D puzzle platformer. An example of this would be swiping to the grey backdrop, then taping the screen to turn Baby’s balloon to stone — which can be used to weigh down an elastic bridge, and then swiped to a different backdrop to return it into a balloon, causing the bridge to rebound and launch Baby into the air.
This led to the biggest issue I had with Muraski Baby. Given that the only way to get Baby to move was to touch in front of her so that she can hold your hand, it can be difficult to get her to simply move as you want her to. At times nothing will happen, at times things will be in the way and some times she will be on the far right of the screen, and you have no screen real estate left to touch to get her to go to the right.
Combining this awkwardness with trying to get past some of the puzzles felt more like finger ballet than actually trying to play a game. Touching the front screen to guide Baby forward while having to tap with a different finger to kill the flying baby pins and use another finger or thumb to guide the balloon away from the pins, while also using your other hand to hold the Vita and tap the back touch pad to keep your punctured balloon inflated is just a bit much.
The other major issues that hurt my experience with Murasaki Baby were a number of technical problems. The first issue that popped up was the game’s inability to auto-save my game, which eventually led to it crashing and forcing me to lose about an hour. Given the short length of the game it is difficult to see to see how prolonged the issues were, but upon replays, the save glitch never came back, yet the game still crashed multiple times.
Most of the success of Murasaki Baby relies wholeheartedly on its art style, and thankfully it does pull the game pretty far. But, the puzzles are more about execution than thought, and even though the story felt like it went much deeper than I had expected for a portable title, it still falls short from being memorable. The culmination of events was almost predictable, and while it might be more meaningful to a certain type of gamer, my experience left me feeling like I was playing something not meant for me.
Murasaki Baby review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on the PlayStation Vita. For more information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.