If you're a fan of puzzlers, you might have heard of the 'programming' genre. In those games, your job is to achieve some objective by arranging objects and/or assigning a list of commands to objects. Hempuli Oy's puzzle game Baba Is You goes a completely different variation on the term 'programming puzzle game.' Instead of using predefined rules to solve puzzles, the rules are physical objects you can change. With over 200 puzzles to solve, Baba Is You offers a wide variety of unique and challenging puzzles that force players to think outside the box.
At its heart, Baba Is You focuses on pushing stuff around a grid-based map a-la Sokoban, an old puzzle game that had players pushing crates into certain marked spots. Each stage has you moving items and dealing with various obstacles in order to reach the goal. The big catch is what you're moving around. Instead of pushing around boring old boulders, you're moving around the very rules to the game, each represented by bits of text like 'and,' 'sink,' and 'Baba.'
By shoving the rules around and arranging them into various combinations, you can completely change how Baba Is You plays. Just some of the things you can do include transforming walls into leaves, transferring control from Baba to a starfish, and changing the goal of the level. If, for instance, you're controlling Baba and arrange some rules to say 'Baba Is Win', you can attain victory through what I like to call self-fulfillment.
As an example of how Baba Is You works, one stage tasks you with getting across a river of lava in order to reach the flag. Unfortunately, some of the rules, which are positioned so they can't be changed, are 'Lava Is Hot' and 'Baba Is Melt' so trying to swim across the lava will end poorly. Fortunately, some of the other things on Baba's side of the river are the words 'is,' 'push,' and another 'lava.' Put those together into 'Lava Is Push,' and Baba will be able to safely push a path through the stream of lava and reach the flag.
The wide variety of combinations result in puzzles that'll force players to really get creative in order to win the stage. The strange combinations of rules and scenarios you can create feel like a very bizarre and interesting form of cheating that feels very neat. A brief look at the Baba Is You official Twitter account show plenty of the weird scenarios that are possible with the game. The game's difficulty does ramp up pretty quickly, though. Once I'd made it slightly under halfway through Baba Is You, the puzzles became difficult enough to stonewall a good amount of players.
As for how you progress, the stages are all connected by a world map that also contains smaller themed areas, such as 'Temple Ruins' or 'Solitary Island.' Completing stages gives you what look like dandelion seeds and unlocks adjacent stages. Completing a certain number of stages in an area completes it, giving you a flower as well as access to new areas. Dandelion seeds seem to just be a way to count the number of stages completed, but certain gates on the world map will only open if you have enough flowers. Each themed area introduces new mechanics to the formula, such as teleportation, creatures that can move on their own, and new joining words. For instance, linking an object rule to another with the word 'has' makes it so the first object will drop the second one upon being destroyed.
When it comes to more artistic parts of Baba Is You, I personally found them charming. The simplistic, cartoony style of the graphics are quite cute. I also enjoyed the "wobble" effect, although you can turn that off if it's not to your liking. As for the music, Baba Is You features a mix of soothing tunes that go great with the game's puzzling gameplay. Here's a song Hempuli Oy posted from the official soundtrack:
As well as the main "story" mode, there is also supposed to be a level editor that would allow players to make and share their own levels. However, Hempuli Oy mentioned in a couple of tweets that the level editor won't be available on launch day. He also stated that due to "technical and other reasons," the Nintendo Switch's level editor would have more limited functionality. Hempuli isn't sure what exactly the limitations would be at this point, however.
Baba Is You takes a decades-old puzzle concept and flips it on its head in a very innovative manner. The game's charming atmosphere goes well with the relaxing yet thoughtful stages that force players to do crazy things with what the game gives them. If you're a fan of puzzle games, this is definitely a game you'll want to pick up.
TechRaptor reviewed Baba Is You on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
- Highly Innovative
- Charming Graphics and Music
- Unique Gameplay
- Difficulty Ramps Up Pretty Quickly