Many many moons past, I ran a youtube channel whose aim was to spotlight neat indie games and help them find an audience. This was before the indie boom, a time when Steam was still in its infancy and the spread of indie titles was limited largely to posts on forums via word of mouth. One of the games I featured was Floating Island Game, a point-and-click puzzler by Arvi Teikari.
Thirteen years later, and with that project long rendered redundant, it was a big surprise to see his name again as the developer of Baba Is You, a wildly successful puzzle game that has had people worldwide tearing their faces off in frustration trying to solve its devilishly simple but astoundingly devious puzzles. I like to think I had a small part in that success! It’s entirely possible one of the 6,000 people who watched that video went on to become a Teikari superfan.
Anyway, to get back to Baba, those devilish puzzles take the form of simple word-based rules. The game grid is populated with both objects and words referencing those objects. By pushing the words around, you can change the rules of the world, and thus the interactions of those objects. [Baba] [Is] [You] and [Rock] [Is] [Push] can be rearranged such that now [Rock] [Is] [You], and now you are controlling the rocks instead of Baba.
This is important because some objects will have multiple rules affecting them- ‘Baba Is Melt’ and ‘Lava Is Hot’ together mean Baba will die if they try to cross lava, but that doesn’t matter one jot if Rock Is You, because there isn’t a rule saying ‘Rock Is Melt’!
Simple in premise, then, but figuring out what arrangement of rules you need and in what sequence is where the brain starts to boil; the words all operate as moveable blocks and are prone to getting stuck in corners or against walls, and all the while you need to be careful not to disturb the ‘_ Is You’ rule for fear of knocking it out of place, deleting the rule and ending up in the existential nightmare of NOTHING Is You. Thankfully, you can quickly backspace one errant action at any time, all the way back to the very beginning if you need to, so mistakes aren’t at all punished.
Fin or Bin:
I was really worried going into this game. I know people far more intelligent and far more patient than I am who had to tap out for fear of their brains leaking out of their ears. But boy howdy, Teikari knows how to make a great puzzle game;
there isn’t anything quite like that “a-ha!” sensation when you stumble over the one set of rules that makes everything else click into place, and the puzzle arenas are tightly designed enough that you’re never left wandering around trying incalculable permutations of the same puzzle until you can brute-force it. For the first hour at least, everything was eminently solvable, however hot my brain got trying to get there. Baba Is Fin!