Murasaki Baby is likely to be the strangest game I play at E3 2014.
In a hands-on demo with this PlayStation Vita exclusive, I take on the role of Baby, a young girl with a bizarre, upturned face. Baby is wandering through nightmarish landscapes in search of her mother, with the hand (or rather fingers) of the player as her only guide. I join the journey in the midst of its journey, during Act 3.
The first thing I learn is that Baby will not move on her own. You have to take her hand by holding down on the Vita touchscreen, then dragging it toward the left or right to urge her along. In her other hand, Baby clutches a balloon. This represents her life — or more precisely her will to keep going. Let the balloon float away or get popped, and Baby will collapse and refuse to move.
All of Murasaki Baby's gameplay is tied to the touch screen. In addition to grabbing Baby's hand, you can press down on the balloon to drag it out of harm's way. In one scene, I have to hold the balloon down to keep it from colliding with some spikes with one finger, while pulling Baby along with the other.
Other puzzles are tied to changing the environment itself by swapping backgrounds. As Baby progresses through the game, the player gains the ability to change a levels background by swiping the Vita's rear touchscreen.
In one area, a blast of wind picks up that's so powerful it can pick Baby up and send her flying off the screen. In order to save her, I have to swap to a depressing, black-and-white background. Once there I can tap the rear touch screen to turn her trusty balloon into a rock, anchoring her to the ground.
Another background puts Baby into a frigid tundra. This allows me to freeze a body of water so she can cross it, but I need to hurry so that she doesn't die from the cold.
A representative from Sony also noted that Baby learns certain actions as the game progresses. For example, at the start of the game she won't jump gaps on her own and must be urged along by the player. But as she becomes less afraid, she'll start running ahead and jumping them of her own volition.
While I was only able to play Murasaki Baby for a short while, I was immediately charmed by its strange world. The puzzles are simple, but even in the short demo I played they grew increasingly complex as the game layered new background abilities on top of each other. Along with Baby herself changing on her journey, Murasaki Baby could turn out to be a very memorable — and undeniably unique — experience.