Nintendad

[Review] Baba is You – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Hempuli
  • Publisher: Hempuli
  • Release Date: 13/03/2019
  • Price: $15.00 / £11.29
  • Review code provided by Hempuli

Baba Is Push

Baba Is You is an unusual, highly stylised game with mechanics bearing some resemblance to block pushing puzzles – albeit block pushing puzzles that find you pushing words rather than blocks, in an effort to change the rules presented in any given level. The rules of the level are presented as objects within the game world, to be manipulated and rearranged where possible.

The level you enter will quite often – but not always – have a three-block sentence which spells out the very title of the game: ‘Baba’ ‘Is’ and ‘You’ (Baba being the rabbit-esque, white character). Move any of these to break the sentence and the level will instantly end, forcing backtracking or a complete restart – if nothing in the current level is ‘You’, then you are unable to interact and the level ends. The first level starts with the sentence ‘Flag Is Win’ in place, meaning that your character just has to get to and touch the flag in order to complete the level; win states can (and will) vary depending on how you place the word ‘Win’, however.

Rules And More

Other rules may be things like ‘Rock Is Push’, meaning that you can push rocks around the play area, or ‘Skull Is Defeat’ – which is pretty self-explanatory: touch a skull and it’s Game Over. If there’s space to do so, you could move the word ‘Push’ and exchange it with ‘Defeat’ – this would, of course, mean that ‘Rock is Defeat’ and ‘Skull Is Push’, thus allowing you to instead push Skulls around, with the Rock instead providing the fail state for the level.


There are ways to make other objects ‘You’, by clever placement of blocks. Other words you’re presented with include ‘Melt’, ‘Float’, ‘Sink’ and ‘Open’, for example. The latter word is used to give objects the ability to open other objects, most likely doors – ‘Door Is Closed’ can be solved by pushing a key into a door when the rule ‘Key Is Open’ is in play, for example (naturally, to achieve this you’ll need to make sure that ‘Key Is Push’ is also a current rule!). ‘Melt’ is a word that can prove disastrous for your character; ‘Float’ will allow objects to float harmlessly above the playfield or even cause you to float above harmful objects. ‘Sink’ will prove lethal to your character and other objects, unless they’re set to ‘Float’ or another word that will allow them to avoid the problem.

Mind Is Win

Thankfully, given that there are times where – even with there only being a few rules in play – you will struggle to see either the solution or the way to make the solution happen, there’s an overworld map that unlocks more areas and pathways as puzzles are completed. It’d be extremely frustrating if you reached a dead end on a single puzzle with no way of proceeding, but the overworld map, with a choice of levels to tackle at any given time, prevents this.

Talking of being stuck, stepping away from a stage – and the game entirely – you will often do your best thinking. Not that there’s any time pressure or incentive to get a level done ‘perfectly’; it’s just that you can spend a long time looking for a solution that just won’t present itself. I’ve found that having eureka moments while not even playing are surprisingly – and happily – common.


One minor gripe – which is less the fault of the game and more to do with how your brain will (or won’t) see the level’s solution – is that some levels will see you stuck for some time and others will see you breeze through when you spot the solution straight away. The uneven difficulty is perhaps unavoidable, however, given that all players are likely to ‘see’ solutions differently when presented with a level’s rules.

Style is Key

There’s a real lo-fi charm to Baba is You; the design evokes coloured chalk on a blackboard, with the simplistic characters, deliberately crude world maps and bold, clear fonts on the word blocks fitting with this aesthetic. The music is similarly understated; minimalist, synthesised tunes that are unobtrusive and mesh perfectly with the low-key visuals.

The overall aesthetic, while some may find it unappealing, is absolutely crucial to making Baba is You work as well as it does. The game’s concept is such a unique one that the audiovisual design needs to be as clear and uncluttered as possible; though there are sometimes quite a large number of rules in play, due to them – for the most part – being only three words in length (however, this can be extended with, for example, blocks such as ‘And’), there’s rarely any confusion for the player as to what the current level will or won’t allow them to do. Or – most importantly, I suppose – what will or won’t be lethal to them!

Baba Is Buy?

Though levels are brief and there’s not really any replay value once you’ve found a solution to any given level, there’s a wealth of content here. Of the 200+ levels available, I managed to make it through around 40 or so before writing this review – and there’s a dazzling amount of inventiveness on display with the puzzles. Baba Is You is one of those games with a concept that is fiendishly clever, yet so simple that it leaves you wondering why you’ve never seen something like it before.

Pros

  • Unique gameplay
  • Very easy to pick up
  • Over 200 levels

Cons

  • Some levels can feel overwhelming with the number of rules in play
  • Difficulty can vary massively from level to level

Verdict
Baba Is You is an utterly unique proposition and it’s one that I’d highly recommend picking up for Switch, given that its single screen puzzles are perfect for game sessions of any length, either on the go or at home.
4/5

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