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One of my favorite puzzles games just turned 5, and it’s still outstanding

Baba is You in the first shot in of its launch trailer.
Hempuli

Baba is You, one of the most mind-bending indie puzzle games I’ve ever played turns five years old today.

Released for PC and Nintendo Switch on March 13, 2019, it’s a puzzle game where players manipulate the rules of a level in their favor to meet a win condition. That may seem simple, but Baba is You ramps up considerably in complexity as it goes on, enabling some genuinely head-scratching puzzles that will have you rethinking what’s possible within the game’s mechanics.

Five years later, I haven’t played another game quite like Baba is You. Since its release, it has only gotten bigger, with more puzzles and the addition of a level editor. If you’ve never played Baba is You before, its fifth anniversary gives you the perfect excuse to check the game out for the first time. And if you haven’t played it since 2019, that additional content provides ample reason to return.

Baba Is You - release date trailer

Pushing the rules

In Baba is You, words appear on-screen that can be pushed around like blocks. When linking them with other words, players create a new rule within the level. Parameters like “rock is push” will make rocks movable, while “flag is win” allows players to complete a stage by touching a flag. In early levels, you might just need to push that rock to open a pathway to the flag. Later on, though, you may have to seek out that directive within the level itself and turn “rock is push” into “rock is win” so that touching that rock is the level’s win condition.

Even the phrase “Baba is You” can be modified, meaning the player can take control of any object in the game if the level allows it. The best puzzle games create moments where the player feels clever for figuring out a solution that’s outside the box or combines systems in unexpected ways. Baba is You is entirely made up of moments like that; almost every level makes me feel like an idiot when I’m unsure what to do and then like a genius when I figure out the result. An always-available undo button also means that a trial and error approach is encouraged when solving puzzles.

As more parameters like that are added to levels, the number of permutations of those rules grows. Baba is You gets more complex over time, and you’ll need to spend a lot of time tinkering around with each level’s words to get an idea of what the level’s solution might be. The experience feels emergent, although Baba is You’s puzzles are intricately crafted. Although that can get frustrating at times, the minimalist pixelated visuals of the game mean that everything needed to complete a puzzle is always cleanly laid out for players.

Baba Is You game on Android.
Hempuli

Upon returning to Baba is You for the first time in years ahead of its fifth anniversary, I was pleased to see that its game mechanics still feel novel and its puzzles are as rewarding to solve as they were in 2019. In fact, there’s more to enjoy now. In addition to the base Baba is You campaign, New Adventures adds even more levels that remix previously used terms and introduce new ones, getting even more juice out of Baba is You’s central gameplay conceit.

There’s also Museum, a mode that includes a ton of content cut from the base game. This mode gives developer insight into why the levels were removed or why specific aspects of them were changed. A game like Baba is You seems like it would be very challenging to create, and these small snippets in each level give some insight into how exactly developer Hempuli pulled off making such a miraculous game. I wish more games included developer commentary like this.

Baba is You Gameplay.
Hempuli

If that insight inspires you to create something, Baba is You now has a level editor too. Although designing clever levels with this system is more difficult than you may initially think, it’s great that this puzzle game lets players get into the nitty-gritty of its level design, further deepening their appreciation and understanding of what makes Baba is You stand out so triumphantly from its puzzle game contemporaries.

Baba is You might seem like a simple and novel game on its surface, but underneath that pixelated exterior is one of the most captivating puzzle games of the last decade. It challenges players to think outside the box and literally change the rules of the game so it works in their favor. Five years after launch, that still stands true.

Baba is You is available now for PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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