“Baba Is You” by Arvi Teikari, MP2 Games, Martin Kvale, Niilo Takalainen, Aaro Teikari, Sara Cascianelli, Hiago Kanomata, Zeno van Ditzhuijzen, Aurora Robb Kristiansen, Vile Lasagna, HLongNV, Eva Jany, Pepperonisecret, Álex Hernández-Puertas, Naomi Kodo, Hoyeon Ryu, Jędrzej Haracewiat, Luca Macedo, Tanakorn Tantisitikul & Doruk Balci.
“[A] puzzle game where you can change the rules by which you play. In every level, the rules themselves are present as blocks you can interact with; by manipulating them, you can change how the level works and cause surprising, unexpected interactions! With some simple block-pushing you can turn yourself into a rock, turn patches of grass into dangerously hot obstacles, and even change the goal you need to reach to something entirely different.”
Let me start this article with a confession: I am still angry at myself that I did not play the Nordic Game Jam prototype of “Baba Is You” back in 2017. It is one of the few big jam games that I totally missed out on. However, I had the full version of the title in my pile of shame for a while now, so I gave it a try now three years later. And what can I say? My puzzle-game-loving heart does not start pounding. It is absolutely fantastic and loved by many for very good reasons, as the main mechanic and level design are outstanding.
While at first glance you might think that the gameplay of “Baba Is You” is primarily inspired by “Sokoban”, it is actually more of a programming game in a broader sense. By pushing text tiles in a direct order as neighbors, you can create simple logical statements which will alter the game situation. For example, take the sentence “Flag Is Win” – if you would push the “Flag” tile away and replace it with “Rock”, it would mean “Rock Is Win”. Thereby you could finish a level by touching a rock instead of a flag. The same way you can change the objects that you have control over. “Baba Is You”? Why not trying “Wall Is You” for a change, as it could help you to solve the puzzle?
The manipulation aspect of “Baba Is You” is easy to understand and brings endless possibilities for wonderful puzzle design. I found myself spending several minutes just looking at the screen to come up with a proper solution for some puzzles, and that is exactly the way I like it. The design is difficult, but never ridiculously unfair. Sometimes a small break can help to find the right idea. So what are you waiting for? Player Is You And You And You And You!