Murasaki Baby is a side scrolling platform adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. Murasaki Baby was announced at GamesCom 2013 to much acclaim and anticipation including earning awards such as Eurogamer’s Best Independent Game, IGN’s Best Surprise of the Show and Jeux Video’s Most Outstanding Art Direction. Can Ovosonico’s Murasaki Baby stand up to the hype and deliver a unique experience in the process?
The story of Murasaki Baby sees the lead character that is abstractly referred to as Baby rather than a distinctive name; being lost in a nightmarish world full of her worst fears as she explores various moods in an attempt to find a way back into the safety and comfort of her mother’s arms.
Baby is always carrying a balloon that must be protected as the balloon represents her health. Therefore, the balloon is arguably the most important gameplay mechanic as if it is lost or is popped; it will result in the player having to restart from the most recent checkpoint.
The level design is very imaginative as it depicts a nightmarish world in which Baby will be happy one moment and terrified the next with an appropriate use of the art style to create atmosphere. The puzzles really help to bring the level design along with such puzzles as removing a light bulb from one chain and placing it on the other to make the colony of bats flee their roost, so Baby can progress beyond the bats and having to use a particular mood to produce rain to raise the positioning of the boat in order for Baby to jump onto the boat.
The character design is just as creative as the level design as you will encounter flies with paper clips attached to them that will lurch forward very suddenly in an attempt to quite literally burst Baby’s balloon. There are various characters that you will meet albeit very briefly on most occasions which all seem to have their own problems regardless of how large or small along with their personality traits. It helps to give a sense of scale to the game and tell the story that Baby is not the only person who has found themselves in this nightmarish world; which in itself provides the feeling of hope that it may be possible to find a way back to reality.
The control scheme is quite easy to master as it purely revolves around the touch screen and rear touch pad. The control scheme consists of swiping the touch screen to guide Baby along by the hand; swiping the touch screen to return Baby’s balloon to her; tapping the touch screen to temporarily get rid of enemies such as the flies with paper clips attempting to burst Baby’s balloon; swiping the rear touch pad to change the mood of the surrounding environment; and tapping the touch pad to make Baby and her enemies jump with fear, shock and surprise.
Murasaki Baby’s graphics are arguably its main standout feature as it really paints an extremely vivid depiction of the nightmare Baby is experiencing as the artistic side of the game shines through with a dazzling cross shaded hand drawn style that is just as creative as such games as Limbo, while there are certainly Tim Burton influences too and the tension of each mood is illustrated as accurately as you would expect them to feel if a person was experiencing them in real life, which really brings a symbolic quality to the game that resonates with many people in everyday life situations.
The presentation is so minimalist in its appearance to a point that you could argue if it has any to begin with as you are immediately thrust into the game as there are no menus or options and all of the control schemes are located in the separate manual, while the lack of a pause menu is quite strange and unorthodox to say the least, although the presentation is somewhat redeemed by the use of clear and concise diagrams showing how to perform certain actions when new gameplay elements are introduced and some may say that with exception of the pause menu; the lack of menus perhaps helps the pacing of the game.
The audio consists of sound effects, speech and music which collectively makes for quite an atmospheric tone to the game as the sound effects consist of ambient sounds related to which environment Baby is exploring, such as rain and thunder, a spinning windmill or fire, while there are nearby creatures such as bats and flies, amongst others with footstep and balloon related sounds. The speech is limited in the sense that Baby is too young to be speaking properly, although she will make noises to reflect her happiness, excitement or horror, while music is interlaced here and there for effect, especially when Baby fails to overcome a puzzle.
The trophy list includes 11 trophies with 5 bronze trophies, 5 silver trophies and 1 gold trophy. The vast majority of the trophies are fairly easy as 9 trophies are story related, therefore they will be earned by naturally progressing through the story, while the They Can’t Get Along bronze trophy and the Murasaki Baby gold trophy are the only two trophies that are missable. The They Can’t Get Along bronze trophy can be earned by unveiling and looking at all of the pictures in the Twisted Twins’ home, while the Murasaki Baby gold trophy requires you to simply watch the end credits, so even though they are missable trophies; they are not really difficult to earn as long as you are aware of where to look at the pictures and to not skip the end credits sequence. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 2 to 5 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although there is a distinct difficulty curve as new dangers are introduced from enemies to hazards and new gameplay elements are also introduced periodically that will usually be tied into the puzzles and level design that retain a flow to the game, while keeping everything moving along at an interesting yet appropriate pace.
There are no multiplayer features or online leaderboards and while the lack of multiplayer is not exactly surprising given the time clearly invested into the atmosphere and creative aesthetic; it would have been a positive step in the right direction to see a form of pass the Vita multiplayer. Co-operative multiplayer in which the control of Baby switches between multiple players after a player has been unsuccessful in an attempt to overcome a puzzle, while a simultaneous competitive element would have seen both players attempting to survive the longest. Online leaderboards could have displayed a listing of who has completed each chapter of the story and the entire story in the fastest times to add some form of co-operative and competitive features.
Murasaki Baby’s soul form of replayability is its unique and charming style as there is nothing else to guarantee that you will return beyond the initial playthrough due to a lack of any focus on unlockable content, multiplayer or online leaderboards, which produces the only sideways step made throughout the entire game. The lack of alternative game modes or something fundamental to keep you coming back is highlighted all the more by being able to complete the game in around two to five hours depending upon how quickly you grasp the puzzles and control scheme. It must be asked how many times you could return to a game for its unique and charming style alone, although it is probably a game that you will return to explore everything over again every now and then.
In my opinion, Murasaki Baby should have taken a page out of the replay value book written by Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins in which Baby reaches the location of where her mother is supposed to be, but as her mother is worried about her; she has already started walking along a different route in search of her child. Baby now has to not only find her way back from where she has just ventured through, but she also has to overcome new obstacles and puzzles that were created when she found her way to where she thought her mother could have been waiting for her to reunite. Therefore, taking this approach would double the length of the story and make players think just as hard about how to overcome each obstacle and puzzle when heading in the opposite direction; as everything would be in reverse and altered in accordance with what was necessary for Baby to make her way beyond the initial puzzles and obstacles.
• Title: Murasaki Baby
• Developer: Ovosonico
• Publisher: Ovosonico
• System: PS Vita
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1
• Memory Card Space Required: 328MB