Early puzzles in Baba is You are a series of personal epiphanies. With a limited tutorial, I immediately understood how the game works, why its weird name makes perfect sense, and how moving even just one block the right way can make everything change. I felt brilliant as I transformed the properties of each puzzle to get the win – but then things got complicated.
Baba is You combines familiar block-moving puzzles with a simplified programming language. Most of the blocks in any given puzzle represent nouns, conjunctions, and verbs, and they must be combined to solve a puzzle. The game’s title is the perfect example: A “Baba” block next to an “is” block next to a “you” block puts you in control of Baba. If you disconnect those blocks, you are no longer Baba, so you lose control and have to fix your mistake using the helpful undo button. That core idea is stretched across 200 levels in interesting ways. I liked when puzzles demanded strange ideas, like taking control of the walls guarding the win point, or making every tree turn into a key so I could move one to unlock a door. Especially early in the game, I enjoyed toying around with the assorted ways I could arrange blocks to figure out solutions. The core mechanic of Baba is You is clever, but as the game continues, it adds too many variables and gives way to frustration over fun.
Like a good puzzle game, Baba is You expands on a smart core mechanic, but it all ends up overlapping onto itself to become too complicated. The variables change level to level, so before you begin the process of solving, you need to analyze a checklist to figure out what you can and can’t do. For example, sometimes water makes you sink, sometimes it melts you. I often had what I believed to be a smart solution ready to go, only to learn that the object properties I had become accustomed to were no longer applicable. In one level I changed a door into a different object I could move to access the winning flag, but in another level, the door had to remain a door and could not be changed. This diminishes the entertaining experimentation and makes late-game puzzle solving exhausting and unsatisfying.
The core puzzle-solving mechanic in Baba is You is smart, and has the potential to open up puzzles in myriad way. But when the rules change in each level, it makes the through line to the solution more difficult to find than it should be. Baba is You sings during its early puzzles when there are multiple solutions and lots of opportunities to feel like a genius, but when the variables pile up, it becomes restrictive.