Do not be allured into complacency by the cute pixel bunny-creature.
This game will make you want to flip your keyboard.
In a good way. If you don't like maddeningly hard puzzle games, Baba Is You is right out. If you're the sort who enjoys letting your brain chew through a fiddly logic puzzle, and you love that little splat of euphoria when you've finally gotten it, this game is definitely for you. Bonus if you like adorable 8-bit kitsch.
I picked Baba Is You up on a whim when I was looking for something for my Saturday Twitch stream; Quizzical Pixel and TwitchStrike both have aggregators of which games have an unusual amount of viewers at any given time. Some bigger streamer was playing Baba Is You. (I don't recall who it was, unfortunately.) I watched a few minutes before deciding it was worth the few bucks to try it myself – I'm almost as fond of puzzle games as I am of roguelikes, so I'd at least get a few hours of messing around out of the deal.
The basic premise is simple: you are a bunny-blob called Baba. Touch the flag to win. As you can see below, in this particular level, there happens to be a large pit of lava between you and the flag. If you step in it as-is, you'll melt. (That's bad.)
The catch is that in order to win, you need to change the rules in order to make it possible to get to the flag. The simplest rules come in the form "x is y" – e.g., LAVA is HOT, ROCK is PUSH. BABA is YOU is also a rule, and if you modify it, you are no longer Baba (which is frequently a lose condition unless you're switching what is you to something else – you can be any number of things, but you can't be nothing). Eventually you'll get to use AND and NOT as components of rules, and (very slight spoiler) you can use the same component twice by placing rules across each other. Heck, some levels require changing the win block to something other than the flag.
The screenshot shows a level that's fairly simple – I'll give the solution in a footnote¹ so folks who'd prefer not to know can avoid it. Things get much more complicated – I confess I haven't finished the game. It's not for lack of enjoying it; it's because I'm stubborn and am stuck on several levels. I refuse to look up hints. I fancy myself decent at puzzle games, and I spent a goddamn hour and a half on one particular level. Nearly gave up, and the only reason I didn't was because one sweetheart Twitch viewer was gently encouraging me to finish it. Man that felt good.
The soundtrack is sweet chiptune-style tracks, which works beautifully with the retro art and never gets obnoxious. (Looking at you, Sonic 4.) It's not especially memorable, but there's no reason for it to be more than background noise. I'm glad they kept the visuals simple, both because it keeps the screen from being busy and means most computers can run it.
The level design itself is top-notch. There's none of the confounding randomness that some puzzle games suffer from, which is to say each puzzle is based on pure logic. Every level feels solvable even when it's hair-tearingly difficult, which ironically makes it more frustrating when the solution feels just barely out of reach. It's good frustration. Yes. Good frustration. That's a thing, I will not be accepting views to the contrary thank you very much no I didn't Frisbee my keyboard what are you talking about.
I don't typically talk about games I didn't finish – it usually means I didn't like them, though expect the occasional post about a game I didn't care for. Baba Is You is an exception. I haven't finished it because it's actually challenging, and that's the best kind of brain food. It's also cute, and I'm a terrible sucker for cute.
It's more than worth the $14.99 for the neuron exercise. It's simple enough for most folks to pick it up easily even if they're not gamers, and I expect it will be fun for anyone unless they're not interested in puzzles.
Game: Baba Is You // Recommend: Yes // Price: $14.99 on Steam // Developer: Hempuli Oy
¹ Nudge the BABA is YOU rule to the left, push the rock away so you can get out. Reconfigure the rules from ROCK is PUSH to LAVA is PUSH (you don't need the rock anymore), then push the lava out of the way and touch the flag.