Thinking back on our first experiences with games we always begin by learning the rules. We learn how to move our character and properly interact with our environment. We’re shown the hazards of the worlds and how to progress safely to the next objective. Much like in the real world, following rules allows us to thrive and progress.
As a result though, we became conditioned to accept certain rules as iron clad. Things never to be broken. A standard to be taken as the proper model in subsequent titles. Baba is You looks to change that.
Imagination’s Limitless Potential
A game jam title developed by Hempuli, Baba Is You appears simple on the surface. As the title character, players must move blocks, rocks, and text to solve a variety of puzzles. They’ll need to successfully reach a flag to advance onto the next head scratcher. As the player progresses, new obstacles and patterns are introduced to throw them off. This forces them to consider different ways and options for achieving victory.
With time though, the game reveals how multifaceted and untraditional it is, offering solutions that are inventive and otherwise impossible in any other game. Should the objective flag be out of reach, players can change the objective to refer to a nearby rock instead. They could even become the objective themselves, instantly moving on to the next level.
Baba Is You takes every preconceived notion of a puzzle game and throws it out the window. Instead players are offered the chance to break the game with whatever solutions they can think of outside the traditional confines of gaming mechanics. Walls are no longer barriers, hazards are harmless, and the player is whatever they need to win, so long as they can interact with the world in the right way.
It’s a novel concept and yet it plays off of a way of thinking each and every person has at one point embraced; specifically, as children.
As we grow up, problems begin only having set solutions. We learn which restrictions are in place, either due to physics, limited resources, or other factors and work form there.
Before that however, as children we have a bevy of possible answers. If something doesn’t float, add something to it that can. Is an obstacle is blocking your way? Move it. If a rule is keeping you from doing something, don’t follow it.
Capturing this open way of thinking and embracing the impossible as realistic provides a sense of freedom we’ve accepted as forbidden in other games. At least, those that haven’t been hacked or broken. And yet, in a way, Baba is You encourages this as well. So long as you reach the objective, anything is allowed, no matter how scrambled and fractured the rules of the game become.
In just about the best way possible, there aren’t many other games like Baba is You. Few, if any other titles encourage the players to throw out the rulebook to overcome puzzles. People won’t walk away from this game without a new appreciation for the many ways the world can open up, if you think outside the box.
Baba is You is currently nominated for four awards at the 2018 Independent Games Festival including Excellence in Design, Best Student Game, the Nuovo Award and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. The game is currently in development for a full release on Steam. For more on this year’s IGF nominees, check out our deep dives into what makes Night in the Woods and A Mortician’s Tale worthy of their nominations.