In preparation for our podcast this month, I picked up Baba Is You, Untitled Goose Game, Katana ZERO, and Outer Wilds. For no particular reason, I started with Baba Is You, a puzzle indie game developed by Finnish developer Arvi “Hempuli” Teikari and ported by MP2.
In this game, you (Baba, more often than not) need to reach the goal by pushing blocks around. However, the goal changes according to what the text blocks say they are.
For example, if the blocks read “Flag is goal”, then reaching the flag will complete the level. However, by moving the text blocks, you can either break the sentence, negating its effects, or create new sentences, thus creating new rules including who you control, what things are, and how they move and interact with the world around them.
So is it any good?
- Frustratingly brilliant puzzles
- Fascinating mechanics
- Cute and clear visuals
- Desolate soundscape
- Inconsistent difficulty
- Occasionally unclear effects
The lo-fi cutesy pixel art is clear and doesn’t distract while you’re scratching your head. For me, the “boiling lines” make the visuals almost reminiscent of 90s cartoons and make an otherwise-static screen feel more alive as everything wiggles and pulses, even when Baba isn’t moving or manipulating the rules of the universe.
By far the finest part of this game is the brilliant puzzles. You’d be surprised how much depth the puzzles offer with a few nouns, verbs, and adjectives. While the game starts with simple “X is Y” sentences, new verbs are added as you progress.
This innovative mechanic is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s not just a matter of understanding the rules, but also disregarding and altering them, which leads to plenty of hugely rewarding “a-ha!” moments.
Of course, there’s a lot of lateral thinking involved, which means that it isn’t always clear what each word means. Once you’ve experimented a bit, though, you should get the idea. Some words, like “defeat”, “win”, and “stop” are quite obvious whereas the effects of words like “has” and “sink” weren’t immediately obvious to me.
As a result of these unusual solutions, there’s a fairly inconsistent difficulty curve; what may be obvious to one person might take a little time for another. You might immediately work out the solutions to some of the later levels whilst spending an embarrassing amount of time on some of the earlier (and supposedly easier) ones.
Baba Is You is one of the best puzzle games I’ve played this decade. While it might seem simple at first, it’ll very quickly draw you in with its charming and frustrating puzzles. There’s nothing unfair about this game as all the rules are clearly outlined for you on the screen and you don’t even have to follow them if you can move them. Rules were made to be broken and Baba Is You shows just how good it can be.