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Community Article: Indie Insights - Baba is You

Written by John Edwards

Baba Is You.

Except when it's not. When Baba Is Defeat, or Baba Is Rock. There's a long list of things Baba could be it all depends on how you go about solving the puzzles. 

Baba Is You is essentially a block sliding puzzle, except the blocks you slide can alter the rules of the puzzle as you change keywords around that then affect the world around you.

Everything in these single-screen puzzles is reminiscent of a Spectrum era game, with clear single colour tiles for each object or word. Baba is a white rabbit thing, there are red skulls, brown rocks and so on. The crucial parts of the level are the words. Typically there'll be the titular phrase "Baba Is You" and this establishes that you control the little rabbity thing. 

However, should you choose to push the word Baba out of the sentence, replacing it with the word Rock, for example, you would now be controlling any Rock tiles and the little rabbity thing would no longer be you. 

Shifting the words in these short sentences is how you alter the logic in the level and beat the puzzles. Can't pass a wall? Change the sentence that says the wall stops you then breeze on through? Level says the Flag Is Win but you can't get to the flag? Swap out the word Flag with something you can touch and away you go.

As the puzzles progress so does the complexity and the cunning design of the levels. Soon you'll have to pay attention to which order you swap out the words, what direction you push them in, use sentences as a means to prod things you can't touch without dying. At times you'll think you've broken the game because you're suddenly controlling all of the walls, or you've turned an impassable lake into dozens of Babas, but more often than not they're actually the correct solutions, or at least one of them.

The game is ludicrously flexible. It hands you tools to shape the world around you and rarely imposes more than a few limitations on you. As you progress you learn to scan the levels for what you can't change. Sentences wedged against the edge of the screen and in corners aren't going to be changed because you physically won't be able to move them to make a different order or words.

This helps to narrow down your options and is the closest the game gets to a hint system. It gets bewildering in places, particularly when a new word is introduced and you need to start considering what effect something like 'Float' may have on the techniques you've already learned.

Baba Is You mitigates its difficulty by making it very easy to either rewind your steps or reset the level entirely. This makes trial and error frictionless and encourages the level of experimentation that thrives in this puzzling world. Baba Is You probably has more "aha!" moments than any other puzzle game I've played, where something will click and you realise if you'd just move that over there and swap those two words and then suddenly the lava is no longer deadly but is now the solution to getting a key.

The game is packed with levels and has a generous branching sort of layout so if you get stuck (you will) you can wander off and try something else before returning with a burst of inspiration. 

On top of the originally released levels, more have been added with new words and objects as well as an interesting museum section that acts as a director's commentary of sorts alongside providing even more puzzles.

On top of this, as if the hundreds of levels weren't enough, there's a level editor so you can torment your friends with your own fiendish designs. The tutorials are worth reading for tips on making puzzles and are themselves full of personality and humour. I made a very quick and very easy level in the editor which you can try with the code: D2TB-BK3J. I have no doubt there will be some astonishing user-generated levels from the Baba Is You community.

Baba Is You is a charming and challenging game. Its simple looks and block sliding mechanics belie the complexity beating at its heart. There are echoes of the freedom Breath Of The Wild provides with its climb everywhere approach. When you realise just how powerful the three words sentences you make are, when a single word change alters the whole level, when it falls into place and the puzzles click, then Baba Is Win.