Baba Is You

My suggestion would be to skip the game and watch the speedrun instead.

Below is an automated copy of my Baba Is You Steam review, which was published there on 2023-10-28. My total playtime is 29.8 hours.

I was really surprised how strongly I ended up disliking this game. I don’t think anything I played this year was a more deeply unpleasant experience. Back when I first heard of the concept of this game, I immediately fell in love – and sure enough, I had a lot of fun in the first couple of levels. I got stuck fairly quick during my first session – probably didn’t even make it past the first world. I was pretty busy at the time and chalked it up to not having the peace of mind for something like this. I made it a bit further some days later, to about 20 percent or so of the game. And already I didn’t enjoy that very much. However, I still liked the idea of the game so much that I kept thinking it must be me and decided to backlog it for now.

A few weeks ago I started the game up again. I had read some opinions/tips in the meantime. It’s meant to be slow, you have to give it more time, think outside the box – the usual. I also repeated some of the earlier levels to make sure I wasn’t getting stuck from having forgotten the lessons that were taught there. As I understand now, that was a mostly moot exercise. After completing the game I can confidently say that I will never have the peace of mind for a game like this. It is incompatible with what I like about video games.

While I do enjoy hard games quite a bit and have no problem at all retrying a level in, e.g. Celeste or N++, for hundreds (in some cases actually thousands) of times, I need to feel progress. For example by getting better with experience, i.e. starting to understand how to approach a difficult level after some attempts and then getting farther and farther with actually implementing that solution in further attempts. Or more obviously via leveling up stats from in-game XP. Or in some other way. Baba does not give me any of that. There is no progress. You either finish a level or you don’t, there’s no in-between. This results in just feeling stuck for most of the time. The game has no difficulty curve, it’s just a wall.

It took me quite some time to figure out what I dislike so much about this game, and this lack of tangible progress is definitely at the core. But I’d also say that Baba is You ultimately is very misleading – the core idea suggests that you can be creative, and change the rules. But you actually – for the most part – cannot do that. Quite the opposite, the solutions to most puzzles are extremely narrow and you have absolutely no chance of beating a level if you can’t figure out this one specific way of doing things. In addition to the lack of progress in this process (having solved the five levels before doesn’t help you in figuring out the solution to the current level) the game is also intentionally obtuse: By constantly switching around the fundamentals (in one level, water is not passable, in another level water is fine but grass is impassable) you don’t get used to anything and basically have to start from scratch all the time. There isn’t really a point to that, because it doesn’t change how the puzzles themselves work. It’s as if Sudoku each time used a different set of nine unique symbols, so you never get used to playing with the numbers 1 to 9 – it doesn’t change how to solve it, but it prevents your brain from anchoring with something consistent.
Even all that aside, sometimes the solutions are just ridiculously convoluted. I gave every single level a fair shot myself, even sleeping on it sometimes. But as time went on so did my patience, and I looked up quite a lot of hints and sometimes even full solutions. There’s a couple of solutions where even after seeing and implementing them I still don’t think they make sense or are consistent with the game at large, and rather just exist as one-trick-ponies to create some of the more “mind-blown I can’t believe the game allows you to do this” moments. Another thing that felt really inconsistent was that even deep into the endgame, there would still often be levels that were really (comparatively) easy – because the level design mentioned above simply makes it impossible to arrange levels by difficulty in a meaningful way.

It pains me to give the thumbs down here, because while I personally almost hate it (and think it has some objective flaws) I definitely want more games like it in the world: Doing something different and wacky. It has overwhelmingly positive reviews so a lot of people clearly have gotten something out of it – and I know how amazing it is when a game does that for you. The game is undeniably a labor of love, but if your taste in games and puzzles is similar to mine you should stay far away from this.