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Murasaki Baby review for PS Vita


Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Ovosonico
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

I don't really like kids very much. I know that's kind of a horrible thing to say, and if you have them I'm sure yours are quite lovely, but I just can't stand them. I definitely don't find them cute, and the thought of having to do everything for some small, defenseless human holds precisely zero appeal.

I have other reasons, too, but I mention those two things specifically because they're basically the essence of Murasaki Baby: you're responsible for guiding a grotesque little girl through a world of equally grotesque horrors. In other words, it's my nightmare idea of what it must be like to have a child.

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As terrifying as the scenario is (at least to me), though, my problems with the game don't stem from that. Indeed, to some extent, both of those things actually reflect the game's strengths. First and foremost, the grotesquerie on display in Murasaki Baby is pretty cool, especially if you're a fan of Edward Gorey or Charles Addams. Danger lurks in every shadow, monster claws and tentacles grasp towards you, and the overall vibe of the game is is just delightfully creepy. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the titular character's cries, but I have to admit, they add to the aura the game is trying to project.

Likewise, while it's certainly annoying to have to guide the girl and her balloon through this horrifying world from the point of view of someone who doesn't want to be relied on, Ovosonico deserve all kinds of credit for making the most of the Vita's unique input scheme. In particular, they make better use of the back touch pad than any game since at least Tearaway, and there's even an argument to be made that Murasaki Baby uses it better.

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Unfortunately, whatever praise the game deserves for finally finding a use for that rear touch pad, it also deserves an equal amount of scorn for making such extensive use of the front touchscreen. You can't use buttons, and instead you literally have to drag the girl around by the hand. This wouldn't be a huge deal if it weren't for the fact there are frequent sections that call for using multiple fingers in order to get through. Consequently, you get all the issues associated with touch gaming on a smartphone, plus the added problem of having to occasionally balance in touching the back of your Vita. I recently updated to the slimmer version of the device and I still found it to be a challenge, which means that if you're playing Murasaki Baby on an OG OLED Vita, you'll almost definitely have literal balancing issues with the game.

Murasaki Baby's other issue is one of length: specifically, that you can beat this game in just a few hours. I'm not inherently against games that are beatable in one sitting — I've raved, to varying degrees, about both Entwined and Magus, and the same could be said for each of them — but it still does feel a little short. Then again, considering my problems with the controls, the game's brevity may not be the worst thing in the world.

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Of course, Murasaki Baby isn't the worst thing in the world, either. (How's that for a ringing endorsement?) Whatever problems I may have with it, at the end of the day, it has more personality than most other games out there. It may not be perfect, but at the very least, its strange, twisted heart is definitely in the right place.

Grade: B-