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TOPIC: Rewriting all the rules with Baba is You

Rewriting all the rules with Baba is You 1 month 4 days ago #259

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It's been quite a while since I've played a logic puzzle game. I had to dig back through my archives and although the game Swap This! had a puzzle mode, it wasn't the main focus. I think the last pure logic puzzle game I played was probably Stretchmo, a Nintendo game which is part of the Pushmo series.

Stretchmo provides a pretty apt point of comparison with the puzzle game I'm reviewing today, called Baba is You. The game is made by one-man Finnish developer Hempuli, and I was attracted to the game's charmingly simple but unique art style and its basic premise, which is to rearrange simple statements such as "Baba is You" and "Wall is Stop" to solve puzzles. The game is a mind-bending twist on the classic Sokoban type of puzzles, where you're tasked with pushing blocks around to achieve a goal. In this case the goal is to reach the item (usually the flag) marked "Goal".

The game is extremely satisfying as you work through the first few sets of puzzles and learn the mechanics and experiment with the small set of words. The mechanics are surprisingly robust and the puzzles surprisingly varied even with a small number of options, everything was going swimmingly... until I hit a roadblock. And another. And another. And this is where the game really fell apart for me, and it sounds like a similar thing happened with the NintendoLife reviewer. In Baba is You you do have a handy rewind feature and some options of skipping some puzzles since in each area you're only required to finish a certain number of them to move on, but even allowing for that I found myself getting stuck over and over again. I really, really hate having to resort to looking up solutions online, so I persisted to no avail, and when I did look up a few solutions I found them to be really unsatisfying. The game forces you to "think outside of the box", but in a way that requires such a big leap of thought and to think in such an obscure way that it's hard to imagine many people getting to the solution without resorting to an online FAQ. It's interesting to compare my experiences to the people who left negative reviews of the game on Steam. Like me, a lot of them call themselves puzzle fans, and they also point to the high spike in difficulty. I would also echo the often-repeated comment that the way the puzzles are set up you can't even begin to tell if you're on the right track, so you could end up spending hours on false path after false path.

I don't mind a puzzle game being difficult, but in this day and age there should be more options for hints, even a mechanic as simple as accruing a currency to unlock the first few moves of the solution. Since players end up resorting to the Internet when they get stuck anyway, incorporating a hint system into the game would really help the player, both emotionally in terms of not having to be hopelessly stuck, and also psychologically, in that you're not forced to look up the entire solution, but you can at least get pointed in the right direction. All in all I'm disappointed that I had to give up on Baba is You in frustration since I think the aesthetics and the concept are really great. At some point once the emotional scars have healed I may come back to this for another go, but I can't imagine wanting to do so for a very long time unless I need something to raise my blood pressure.

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