Murasaki Baby is a weird little game about a weird little girl lost in a weird-looking world. Once you get past its Hot Topic aesthetic, it’s a breezy puzzle game that’s challenging in all the wrong ways.
The visuals are striking, with cross-hatched pencil art and unique characters. Baby, the heroine, is essentially a stick figure with an oversized, upside-down head. As she journeys through this surreal adventure, she encounters equally bizarre creatures, most of which are out to get her or her balloon. Whether you think it’s cute or grotesque probably depends on how closely you identify with Jack Skellington.
You don’t take direct control of Baby; instead, you’re an unseen force who guides her (and her purple balloon) by manipulating the environment. Tap the screen to knock flying safety pins away before they reach her inflatable companion in a game-ending pop. Slide a finger across the Vita’s rear touch pad to change the world’s background and open up a variety of puzzle-solving options. And, as you do time and time again, drag and pull Baby’s hand to make her awkwardly toddle across the screen.
The background-sliding idea is pretty neat. Baby’s goal is to navigate to a door in each level by working around obstacles. A ledge might appear impossibly high until you bring the correct backdrop into the rotation. A few taps of the screen, and suddenly it’s raining – filing a divot with water, which Baby can cross with a rubber-duck boat. Or, a scary giant rabbit proves too much for Baby to handle, and no amount of arm pulling will get her to budge. The solution is to transform the background into a TV-filled dystopia, which causes the bunny to focus its attention on the show. With its back turned, Baby is more than happy to continue on her way. Other backgrounds cause Baby to shrink or even defy gravity – the latter move helped by the player rotating the whole Vita around.
It’s the kind of gimmicky stuff you might expect from a launch game, though it works well overall. The problem is that Baby isn’t much fun to work with. She’s a slow mover, and she doesn’t do it on her own. You have to guide her along by touching the screen and dragging it. The farther you pull her rubbery little arm, the faster she walks – to a point. She’s still working on the fundamentals, and if you move her faster than a slight trot she takes a tumble. Ovosonico may be going for whimsy with those falls and the animation that accompanies her recovery, but it quickly becomes tedious. It reminded me of going to the store with my kids when they were toddlers, but at least I could scoop them up and carry them once I’d had enough.
The sliding backgrounds and other elements are initially clever, but they ultimately don’t gel or grow in any interesting ways. You only have a handful of different backgrounds to choose from at any given time, so finding a way past the next obstacle is only a matter of trial and error – if the obviousness of a solution doesn’t hit you immediately. Finding that balance is tricky, and Murasaki Baby’s superficiality is further dragged down by the annoying controls.
Once you get past its Hot Topic aesthetic, Murasaki Baby's a breezy puzzle game that’s challenging in all the wrong ways.