Murasaki Baby – VITA Review

At its heart Murasaki Baby is a puzzle game where you play a lost little girl looking for her mummy, however the way this is presented makes this game so much more. It looks like some messed up child’s drawing, sounds like a terrible nightmare and has characterisation straight out of an asylum. These factors all add together to make a unique take on a puzzle game.

Whilst playing this game I was sure I’d seen something like this before and the sparing use of colour, the hand drawn graphics and the spooky, downright odd, narrative reminded of the Tom Baker short story The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. All messed up scratchy art with bold use of colour and nightmarish shapes and environments.

Controlled through the touch screens the game takes a little bit time to get used to. You use the front screen to hold Baby’s hand and lead her through a platform environment littered with puzzles to solve. You can also grab hold of the balloon Baby constantly carries with her and use this to interact with switches and other environmental features. It is this dynamic which forms the core of the gameplay. If Baby lets go of her balloon she will start to wail, and you’re tasked with grabbing the balloon and bringing it back to her before it floats away. If the balloon pops or flies away, it’s game over. The fragility of the balloon makes up part of the game’s puzzle element.

The rear screen is used by swiping your fingers horizontally to change the background colour, and overall mood. New backgrounds are obtained in each level and are relevant to the puzzles within. Some provide environmental affects, such as wind or rain where others provide physical effects which play with your balloon. With each new background you also get a new sound to the nightmarish world you find yourself in, from strange eerie static, to the weird noise of a childish nursery. The new backgrounds really are an integral part of the experience or the game, with each one playing into the overall story of the specific level you are in.

Each level is the domain of a particular child. Within the levels the nightmare of the child is made real, with the environment, background colours and soundscape all playing on their own fears. A big part of the enjoyment you will get from this game is witnessing the new nightmares and discovering the root of them. The characterisation in this game is fantastical with some downright spooky elements. The nightmarish children all have some problem and your progression through the level results in you freeing them from their nightmare.

I’ve touched on this before but the sounds on offer here are great. Some deeply unsettling music on offer, and some frankly haunting voices, Baby’s cry of ‘Mummy!’ when you finish a level is fucking horrible, in a good way.

As nice as this game looks and sounds there are some big issues with the gameplay. The reliance on touch screen controls leaves you with some finger contorting problems. Whilst the intention by the developers to do something different should be applauded, there are some examples where this just doesn’t work. This is particularly evident in the sections where you need to use two fingers on the front screen and one on the back. Often these result in deaths which could have been avoided if there had been tighter controls.

The puzzles on offer are also easy with nothing to really tax your brain. The ease of these puzzles will see you waltz through the game at a fair pace, and you can be listening to the closing credit song within four hours. Oh and what a song it is, I wont spoil it for you but it does fit perfectly with the aesthetic of the rest of the game in being messed up.

Overall, Murasaki Baby is a bravely unique game with a very novel presentation and offers a decent story which will see you through to the end. However the shortness of the game coupled with easy puzzles means there is no real challenge here, in fact the biggest challenge on offer comes from the sometimes cumbersome control scheme. I can’t see myself replaying this game anytime soon, but then I can’t see myself forgetting this game anytime soon either. Mummy!

Murasaki Baby
7 Overall
+ Fantastic art direction
+ Compelling story will keep you going
+ Novel control scheme
- Short and easy
- Sometimes the controls get in the way
Another dark indie puzzle platformer but this one truly is a bit different to the rest. With some great art design and some novel touch controls to boot. The short running time and lack of replayability does get in the way though.

About Steven

Steven used to review basically everything for us but ended up being shot by bandits. This one's for you, Steven!

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