Murasaki Baby, the debut title from Italian developer Ovosonico, was a strange game for Sony to highlight during its Gamescom press conference; not because it was an indie game, as they featured bunches of those. It's because it's a very, very, very strange game by any conceivable standards you could throw at it.
Let's start with the baby, who, like every set piece and monster in the game, is drawn in the style of Edward Gorey, with dark shadows under her eyes and a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth on her forehead. You'd think a child with such lethal teeth could take care of herself, but it's up to the player to lead her through the game's perilous world using the PS Vita's touchscreen, rear touch pad and other inputs.
The Vita's sticks and buttons are occasionally utilized, but much of the game requires touch-based gestures to navigate the baby through her environment. By grabbing her hand and pulling, you can lead her forward — pull too hard, though, and you'll send her careening to the ground. You can also make her trot at a slower pace by pushing at her back, or make her stop completely by swiping her backwards.
Occasionally, you'll also use the touchscreen to clear a path for your baby to run through. A lightbulb has to be moved around a dark cave, providing the baby with enough light for her to get over her fear of the dark. Flying safety pins try to attack the baby and pop the balloon she constantly carries around with her; an object you have to protect just as much as the baby; if it pops, she cries until the scene reloads.
The core game is fairly straightforward, but even during my brief demo, the puzzle elements were layered on quickly. After teaching the baby how to jump over pits by swiping as she approached them, she started to excitedly run and jump over pits by herself. One pit, though, was inhabited by a tentacle that will snatch the baby if she tries to jump it. If the player doesn't act quickly to stop her, she's a goner.
One particularly grim element involves popping the heart-shaped balloons of other creatures in the world, splattering blood on the walls behind them. By popping those balloons, the player gains the ability to change the background of the scene to varying "moods," giving them special ways of interacting with the world. One mood turns the background into a field of screaming obelisks, capable of scaring away enemies attacking the baby. Another far more peaceful mood adds a windmill to the background that can blow away fog obscuring your view.
I really don't know what to make of Murasaki Baby, which might just be exactly what Ovosonico is going for. I'm not sure why I was exploding monster hearts to turn the scene into a screaming hellscape, and I certainly don't know why this baby's head is upside-down. Finding answers to those pressing questions might just be worth the price of admission.