Previews

Hands-on with Murasaki Baby - a bizarre PS Vita adventure-platformer

Follow the balloon

Hands-on with Murasaki Baby - a bizarre PS Vita adventure-platformer
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| Murasaki Baby

What's the collective noun for people playing a game together? I'm thinking something like a gaggle. Maybe a stoop.

Whatever it is, there's one of them bunched around the PS Vita next to me, and they all seem entranced in the best way, offering help and suggestions to the member of their group with his hands on Murasaki Baby.

And hands-on is definitely the best way to describe the intriguing mix of cuteness and grim, gory, gothic darkness.

You control everything in the game with a combination of the Vita's two touchscreens, essentially dragging the main character along by her hand.

It's a unique feeling, and something that's only possible on Sony's handheld. You have to concentrate on keeping a balloon un-popped, tapping on enemies to keep them away, and dragging it back when you get frightened by something gory or unpleasant in the world.

And that happens a lot. In the 20-minute demo you're stumbling through a world full of demons, bats, and awful dark places, haunted at every turn by a weird little boy with an elephant trunk for a face.

To my right there are giggles and laughs, almost heated discussions about what to do next. It gives a strangely communal feel to the playthrough.

Swiping on the back touchscreen shifts the emotion of the world. You can scare things off, use the wind to blow the sails of single-seater boats, and put out fires with torrential downpours.

Everything about the experience is tailored to the often ignored functions of the Vita's hardware and it makes for something fresh and decidedly unique.

I grab at the balloon as it drifts almost out of reach, tapping on some safety-pin birds that threaten the safety of both the baby and her prize possession.

Sometimes you need to pick up lights and move them to move forward. Other times you need to gently coax the baby forward, scaring off monsters by shifting the world to the dark-red hues of hell.

Murasaki Baby builds a world to get lost in, asking you to experiment with the tools it gives you to find ways past the spooky, scary surprises waiting for you at every turn.

Sometimes the demo skirts a little too close to the esoteric, but there's a rich seam of novel gaming to be mined here.

This is the sort of game you can enjoy curled in the foetal position on your own, or surrounded by a gaggle of friends. A stoop of cohorts. A bundle of like-minded players.