Review: Murasaki Baby (PS Vita)
Facing your fears isn’t something that we ordinarily like to do, at least not alone, and certainly not when you’re a child. Think back to your days as a child, can you remember what you were afraid of? As a child (probably about 6) I was terrified of using the bathroom at night because I believed the taps were possessed by a demon – I kid you not. I forced my parents to hold my hand and walk me safely to the bathroom and back. Holding their hand gave me the strength I needed to journey past the thing I was afraid of. If you have a childhood memory like that, then you’ll immediately identify within yourself the story of Murasaki Baby.
Baby, the main character of the game, wakes up in her bedroom alone and afraid. Her mother is nowhere to be found, so she gets up and decides to look for her. As she exits the safety of her home, she walks into a land of nightmares, a place that only children can see. It is a lonely place, filled with darkness and despair. Immediately, Baby is terrified of the place, but she’s armed with her purple heart-shaped balloon and is willing to voyage across this doomed dimension in search of her mother. But how is she to find her? She needs her helper, her light in the darkness, her strength – she needs you.
Murasaki Baby, is an escort game without it actually being the normal escort game. In order to move Baby, you need to grab her hand by tapping on the Vita screen, and drag her arm in the direction you want her to move. Basically, it feels like YOU are the main character guiding Baby to safety and protecting her along the way. Pulling her softly makes her walk really slowly, stretch her arm further and she’ll begin running, but tug too far or too fast and she’ll trip or fall. When this happens – and this is something that I rarely experience in a game – you feel terrible. I know there’s no mechanic in the game that supports this, but I only really feel much better when I rub Baby’s forehead and whisper I’m sorry, if I accidentally make her trip. As animated as Baby is, you get an overwhelming need to protect her. The emotional link between you and Baby grows stronger and stronger through the game and that’s what makes this game so unique. The connection between you and the game is so rarely used, or at least used well. The only other example I can think of is Tearaway.
Other than holding Baby’s hand, you can control her balloon. The balloon plays a very important part of the game. I’m sure it can be interpreted in many different ways (other than Baby crying “Mama” there isn’t a script to this game, it’s all visual), but the way I see it is, is that the balloon is a symbol of her heart. If it breaks or pops, that will end the stage and you need to start over. If she, for some reason, lets go of the balloon, she’ll go into a crying frenzy until you return it to her. Keeping that balloon alive is essential to keeping Baby safe and sane. It’s also used to unlock certain doors and solve a few puzzles. Controlling the balloon is very simple, just touch the balloon with the touch pad and move it around. Tip: move it away from sharp objects.
Baby and her balloon aren’t the only things you can manage. You have the power to alter the world around you, provided you pop the right balloons. The game features a few different worlds, each with their own troubled character (which you need to help) and theme. As you progress through the level, you need to pop certain balloons. Once popped, they give you the ability to change the background of the world. Sliding your finger on the back touchpad changes the background of the world. Tapping on the back touchpad activates that altered world’s power. Each of the main worlds feature a few alters that include powers like controlling electricity, wind, making it snow and flipping the game upside down. This is a fresh mechanic that I had a lot of fun with. There aren’t that many main worlds, but each one contains brand new altered worlds for you to enjoy. Not one of the puzzles are repeated, so the game never gets stale. There are a few changes throughout the game (but thanks to the rules attached to this review, I can’t say much) that keeps the game flowing.
What’s also truly magnificent about this game is the unique art style. All the characters look like they come from the mind of a 10-year-old Tim Burton, but without all the. Unlike normal humans, all the characters have mouths on their foreheads – unusual but not as creepy as you think it is. Its presentation does look like a child drew it, but that’s just it, it’s meant to look that way, because you’re playing with a child. You’re guiding a child through what she defines as scary (though I’d crap my pants if I saw that). The art director definitely had a clear vision of what he wanted the game to look like, and he nailed it perfectly.
Sadly, the game isn’t without its pitfalls. There are no faults with the game per se, but I fail to see the long-term value in it. It took me roughly 2 – 3 hours to complete, which is fine, but to offset a short game, it needs to have additional content to fluff it up. Sure the experience is great, but it’s not a game you replay over and over again. It offers no trophy support, no side missions, extras, character bios, or anything to extend the play time of the game. To make matters worse, it’s a PS Vita exclusive. Although I love my Vita, and I truly feel that Murasaki Baby takes full control of the Vita’s touchpad, I feel like developers are shooting themselves in the foot by making this game exclusive to such a small market.
If you’re looking for a deeply emotional game that will keep you entertained for a few hours, Murasaki Baby is your baby. It doesn’t have the same power as other games, like Journey, but it’s very touching and moving and really connects you as a gamer with the game.