Despite outward appearances, Murasaki Baby is a pleasant experience. Its cast and setting bring Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy to mind, but its story of a lost child looking for her mother isn’t as somber a tale. While the game seems to host a taste for the grotesque, in reality it’s one of the most welcoming puzzle platformers I’ve played.
Murasaki Baby isn’t a hard game. Its decision to double down on Vita’s touch controls may cause some difficulty towards the end, but an abundance of check points prevents frustration from setting in should you fail. Players take hold of the female protagonist almost literally; by placing a finger close to the character, her hand reaches out and you pull her along. It’s nice, but as with any touch based game, your fingers can block what’s occurring on screen, which is unfortunate considering how terrific the game’s visuals are.
The touch mechanic extends well beyond that of hand holding. The world’s background can be swapped by swiping two fingers across the back of the Vita. In doing so, the way you interact with the world changes. One background allows rain to fall from the heavens, while another litters the skyline with televisions. As you make your journey, you’ll be changing backgrounds frequently to solve the game’s puzzles. The impact this has on the game is both good and bad. On the positive side of things, Murasaki Baby rarely recycles background from stage to stage. This means that the puzzles are always fresh, and there’s a constant sense of discovery as you uncover just what each new background affects the world. On the flip side, there’s no difficulty curve. Without the game having you revisit similar concepts with added twists, there’s no exploration of older ideas. With every puzzle, there’s never a chance to test your proficiency as you proceed. Just as get used to a mechanic, it’s dropped in favour of another.
While I argue against it, perhaps that constant want to keep things fresh was the goal of the developer. While the Vita is flush with games (contrary to what you may have heard), there isn’t as many that it can call its own. Ovosonico set out to make a Vita game, and by god did they ever. While other games fumble in their attempts to make use of the Vita’s features, Murasaki Baby succeeds just as Tearaway did last year. It transports you to an odd world and has you conform to its rules of interaction. I never felt as if anything was a gimmick, but instead an attempt to make a strong impression that this game belongs on the Vita. While the game was brisk, it’s one that will stick with me for a long time.