Review: Baba is You

Baba Is You. You is Reader. Reader is Confused.

Developer: Hempuli
Publisher: Hempuli
Genre: Puzzle
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Rating: E for Everyone
Price: $14.99

 

 

Puzzle games are constantly evolving. Once a trick is pulled and the player knows how it works, the trick no longer fools the player. The solution is obvious and things are no longer hidden. Now, the solution lies in grammar with Baba is You.

Content Guide

Violence: Baba can die by making contact with various items in the world depending on their statements. For example: If the phrases “Baba is Melt” and “Water is Hot” are present, then Baba will melt if he makes contact with the water. Baba merely explodes into pixels when this happens, which can easily be undone with a button press.

Review


Puzzle games are normally reserved to the mobile space with Candy Crush being the most popular. Of course, there are puzzle and exploration games from the PC days of yore, but I am speaking of games that contain nothing but puzzles with no other elements involved. Games like these have addictive Match-3 gameplay that pushes you to attempt that one level just one more time. Of course, micro-transactions are always there to give you a boost and keep you engaged. This gameplay design is nearly flawless as it enraptures millions of players every day. However, this leads to an issue.

As with great design, copycats come along. There is always a pretender that leads to an excess of the same thing. Soon enough, the puzzle genre was stagnant as clone after clone appeared with no freshness in sight.

Hope is reignited when something truly fresh comes along like Gorogoa or Baba is You.


Baba Is You is a puzzle game unlike anything you have seen before. You play as Baba, most of the time. As Baba, you must change simple sentences to manipulate the items in each level to attain whatever has been labeled as “Win.” Usually, there is a flag that is “Win,” but if you are clever enough, you can change it to “Baba Is You Is Win” or “Rock Is Win.” All you need to do is push the word blocks to create these sentences.

While it starts simple enough, it quickly becomes a test of your mettle as you slowly lose your mind and sound like a simpleton thinking out loud the solutions to these puzzles. Can “Key is Baba and Open” allow me to get “Win” out of the water? What sounds like murmurings of a madman, are real words that will come from your mouth trying to understand this grammatical nightmare. It really messes with how you speak for a couple hours after playing.

Most levels have multiple solutions to them; you can form a logic that is completely different to mine. Maybe you chose to become “Rock to become Win” while I pushed “Win to Rock while Flag.” The possibilities may not be endless, but you are completely free to mess with and bend the rules given to you to accomplish victory.

As much as you want to change rules, you do not have absolute power. Freedom always entails rules. Some rules cannot be changed. “Wall Is Stop” will be surrounded by walls, and rules will be pressed against the edge of the screen limiting what you can do with them. No matter how you look at each level, there are always enough tools given to you to complete a level solution.


Regardless of how many times you think you have a grasp on what is going to be a solution, something is added to the grammar pool. When you start the game, you can push objects to clear paths, whether it be rocks or text. What do you do when you need to cross the water, but “Text Is Float” is an unchangeable rule? The game forces you to look harder at what you see; rarely have I been pushed to my mental limits by something I enjoy. I do not want to think hard during a time of relaxation! I have been given summer reading and…I’m enjoying it.

As you progress, the sentence rules become more complex. What starts as simply making an object “Win,” suddenly “Ghost Has Flag” and “Flag Is Win” so you have to create a scenario where the ghost no longer has the flag. If “Ghost Is Melt” and “Key Is Hot,” the key can destroy the ghost allowing you to achieve “Win.” Sometimes, you have to totally change what you think is the paradigm and flip it on its head. When you are given “Push” multiple levels in a row, “Pull” is thrown in the mix with no “Push” in sight.


There is something that I found to be very interesting about this game. If you can 100% three areas in the game, you can take on the final level. Normally, I would not mention this, but it struck me as odd. There are ten themed worlds that unlock as you progress, but you can beat the last level early. It confuses me as nothing changes with the ending whether you play through every area or not. I have no real idea whether this makes everything after the third world post-game or main game. This does not subtract anything from the game; it is simply semantics that are as confusing as the game itself.

Baba Is You is an interesting game. It takes a simple premise and creates one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences out there. No matter how little sense things seem to make, you are never permanently stuck in a corner thanks to quick restarts and undo’s. No matter how many times I felt like a moron, I kept coming back for more. Sometimes, the “Move” condition did not seem to behave in a consistent manner and occasionally I ended up speaking in the most short and simple ways while playing. But, these never overshadowed the brilliance that would always shine through the genius and downright clever design of every level I came across. “Baba Is You.” “You is Player.” “You Play Game.” “You is Win.”

Andrew Feistner

Jesus, Memes, and Streams. What else is there to say? You aren't here for this part, you want the stuff above this.

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