Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Short and Sweet, Murasaki Baby Hits All The Right Notes Until It Ends - The Take Your Time Review

Quick Note: Murasaki Baby is a great puzzle game that uses everything but the Vita Buttons and Joysticks, and does it well. That said, it's really short and ends abruptly. If you enjoy shorter, abstract games or unique puzzle games, pick this one up. Otherwise, you're better off else where.

The PS Vita is such a unique blend of hardcore gaming and phone interfaces. Most gamers despise the touch screen, but that mostly comes from developers not utilizing it properly. Though not perfect, the simple touch control scheme of Murasaki Baby helps bring you closer to Baby without getting frustrated, and the game is all the better for it.

In Murasaki Baby, the player is in charge of helping Baby find her mother. With no real clue as to where she went, the player must take her by the hand and lead her through the strange world. Along the way Baby comes across other lost children who need help solving a problem of their own, which Baby and the player learn about by exploring the child's world. Though not the deepest story, it's easily relatable, as everyone has felt lost and needing help at one point or another.

Hold her hand tight and don't let go.
The world that Baby journeys through is presented in a 2.5D fashion, with a unique visual style that is reminiscent of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline: dark and disturbing in a childlike manner. This is amplified by the sound design, which encompasses eerie music and strange sounds in place of dialog. The design adds to the uncomfortable feeling that the player feels leading Baby as well as how uncomfortable Baby is without her mother, and as an added bonus, does not require the player to be fluent in any one language in order to play.

The love or hate players will feel towards Murasaki Baby comes down to the control scheme, which is all touch. The player leads Baby along by holding her hand and moving his/her finger across the screen. Players can also interact with a few of the enemies by tapping them or move Baby's balloon by tapping and holding it, then sliding his/her finger across. Baby's balloon is very important, as it's her life. If her balloon pops, then the player must start the puzzle over again. 

Upside down and all around
Players also utilize the back touch pad to change the scenery behind Baby. Scenery is picked up from popping other children's balloons. It's almost as if the player and Baby are absorbing the emotions of the children who own the balloons, because the scenery typically reflects the emotional state of the child. Each child has three separate sceneries to utilize and a lot of the puzzle solving mechanics require players to swap between two in order to move forward.

Though most games try to shoe horn in touch, this control scheme felt very natural. Moving Baby left or right was simple, and even manipulating her balloon at the same time as moving her was very unobtrusive. Sure, the game could have had everything mapped to the buttons and joysticks, but the feeling of helping Baby comes from holding her hand and leading her along, which would be diminished by simply pressing the joystick left or right.

Despite it's merits, there are a few issues with Murasaki Baby. For one thing, the game is short. About four hours is all it took to beat the game. This is normally not something I would harp on, but the ending comes abruptly. One second I was leading Baby along and the next second I was watching the credits. This isn't the worst problem to have, but for something I felt emotionally invested in, I did not feel the satisfaction of completion when I reached the end. Rather, I felt like the developers had to rush to finish the game and just slapped the ending on the end. 

Each background has a unique ability.
There are also some technical issues with the game. Nothing game breaking, but the auto save was not working properly. Not only does this make playing the game a pain if you're switching back and forth between games on your Vita, but an error message would consistently pop up and block the game from my view, but not pausing the game when doing so. Speaking of pausing the game, there is no pause. This is just a minor annoyance, but one that came in to play more than once when I had to look up from my Vita for a second, only to look down at Baby's balloon popped and her crying. 

Once you get passed these minor issues though, Murasaki Baby is fun jaunt down a road less traveled. Most games try to make players feel powerful, but Murasaki Baby helps players feel nurturing and responsible for Baby. With a short length and a relaxing difficulty, Murasaki Baby is easy to recommend to those who enjoy puzzle games or short games you play through once. The game is also a shining example of how to do touch controls right: simple and unobtrusive. Now be nice and go help Baby find her mother.

7.5 out of 10

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