Rules are Rules
I haven’t covered a puzzle game before, so this is kind of new territory, you will have to bear with me.
Baba Is You (BIY – I’m abbreviating this because it is a totally whack title) is a puzzle game which revolves around the rules that dictate the puzzle, rather than the puzzle itself. It is a concept which is much easier to show rather than tell, so I might struggle to get the main concept across to you, the reader. While I would rather my entire review weren’t void, I’m going to give it my best shot.
The very first puzzle of the game introduces three rules:
- Baba is you
- Rock is push
- Flag is win
So, the goal is simple, push the rocks out of the way and get to the flag.
What if you could shuffle these rules around, changing the very laws which dictate the puzzle? Rock could be win, rock could be you, flag could be pushed! It’s a novel and exciting concept for a puzzle game. Every level provides multiple solutions, each more outlandish than the last.
It is a game made for analytics and Excel nerds like me, establishing what needs to be in place to win; and seemingly messing with the very fabric of the game itself to force yourself into victory; it feels amazing. You will amaze yourself by how smart you actually are. How you start to unwind your brain with endless variables, only to coil back up into a tort, pristine package and reach the final solution.
Needless to say, this game takes one very simple concept and really runs with it. Over the course of the game you will be juggling and shuffling countless conditions, using simple commands like “has”, “is”, “push”, “open”, it is similar to very basic coding principles. It feels very much like Code Academy, it makes it fun, and that is pretty cool. This is the type of game which I love, taking one idea and spinning it into various scenarios, rather than just recycling or changing core mechanics to keep it interesting. This is why turret sections in games always suck and Portal is always awesome.
Solution is Tricky and Rewarding
For fear of spoiling some of the solutions, I’ll keep everything here brief. You can bend the game to your will if you are clever enough and I can’t wait to dive in and see just how simple some of these puzzles are. Especially after I undoubtedly added plenty of extra, unnecessary steps. Like all great puzzle games, it makes you feel like a total genius. Each failed attempt teaches you something new, how rules can be worked, reworked and broken, it’s exciting even in failure. That is really special in a puzzle game to me and stops the whole thing feeling too frustrating.
But, believe me, this game gets wild with the amount of variables you have to juggle. Look at this mess below. You will work it out though, slowly and methodically.
this is something you should really check out, there really isn’t another game like it on the market. It’s dead cheap too, so there isn’t even that excuse for you to churn out.
Baba Beats The Witness
Baba Is You reminds me of The Witness, rather, what The Witness wanted to be. It achieves this with none of the pretentiousness, none of the visual flare and none of the expectation. This is key to BIY’s success.
In The Witness your reward of each line puzzle was yet another line puzzle. The same is true in BIY, but here it isn’t broken up with boring island exploration, and thematically it isn’t as boring as “just another line puzzle”. There are multiple solutions to each problem and it effectively teaches its own language, much how The Witness was praised to do, only BIY does it much better.
Charity is Nice
Something which doesn’t seem to be shouted about with this the coverage of BIY is that 10% of the developer’s profits go towards Giving What We Can. That is wicked. Although it doesn’t impact how the game actually is, maybe you’ll sleep better if you choose to buy it.
Game Looks Fine
Graphically the game gets the job done (stick that on your accolades trailer). All of the necessary information is conveyed, with the fat trimmed. Any more detail and the game would risk being an incomprehensible mess. There isn’t much more to say here. You can see the screenshots.
Soundtrack-wise, the game isn’t too intrusive. I can’t think of anything worse than hearing some kind of thumping nightmarescape when trying to peel my brain like an orange to unravel some of these solutions.
You Play Baba
This is the perfect pick up and play game, excellent for the Switch and short commutes. It reminds me of something like Candy Crush Saga in the pacing, just open it up, give a level a go, solve it, don’t solve it, then pick it up again later. As I mentioned earlier, every failed attempt at a solution is giving you another method of how not to do it. With everything being so visually clean and clear, you are unlikely to have a solution evade you through miscommunication.
In short, it is great, it is very cool. I haven’t totally finished it yet, if I had to wait until then it would take me until like 2022, I really do suck that much at puzzle games. Still, it is one of the most unique games I have played this year (I started in December).
My brain hurts