Baba Is You


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!


The Swapper

From the store page and general atmosphere, I was worried the dice had given me yet another Metroidvania in quick succession. Thankfully, that’s not really the case.

Rather than being an exploration/puzzle solving hybrid, The Swapper is instead both of those things but strictly one at a time. Our protagonist, Mr. T Swapper, can create disposable clones of himself with wanton disregard of any ethical quandary such an act might inspire. These clones mimic his movements precisely (…mostly), allowing access to places otherwise out of reach. Provided there is line-of-sight, he can also swap consciousnesses with the clones at any time, allowing for some pretty neat chain-traversal puzzles.

Each puzzle room is entirely self-contained, but you have to find them first. The exploration is easily the weak point, here, much the same as it was with Stealth Inc– it kinda feels like a chore to wander the derelict space station when the puzzles are so neatly packed, many of them taking up a single screen and putting the space to full use.

Still, the exploration phase does ask for some jammy tricks, such as creating a vast and utterly inhumane ladder of other selves to climb, each body falling inevitably to its death as you swap higher and higher. …Probably best not to think about it.

Fin or Bin:

The exploration was what killed Stealth Inc for me in the end, but The Swapper hasn’t reached that level yet. The controls are very slippery and sometimes you’ll get caught on a little piece of geometry that will displace one of your clones, undoing a whole chain reaction. There’s lots of potential reasons to Bin this one, and I did worry a few times during my hour that I wasn’t going to have the patience for it. The puzzle rooms themselves are just too good, though, tightly packed and smartly designed, with that glorious “a-ha!” moment never too far away. A Fin, then, on the power of that alone. Tentative, but I want to see what other atrocities the game will ask of me in search of solutions.




Always, I wanna be with you, and make believe with you, and live in harmony harmony oh love~

…Sorry. There’s really only room for one rainbow-dazzled retrotastic endless runner in my heart.

Commander Video returns to us, a populace undeserving of his glory, in this entry in the BIT.TRIP series. For those who missed it, the BIT.TRIP series was something of an event in the late 2000s/early 10s- an entire catalogue of games set to release one after the other, each with a different style of play, dripping with 8-bit aesthetic and telling the vague story of Commander Video’s rise.

Sequels to the series have dropped the BIT.TRIP moniker and fully transitioned into the world of modern graphics, losing the magic somewhat, but I remember the originals held a lot of attention as an expansive indie project in the days of WiiWare, right around the time the indiesphere first exploded. The only title I played previously to RUNNER was BEAT, an interesting and brutally difficult variant on the traditional Pong/Breakout formula set to catchy beats and a fun artistic flair where the graphics became lower and lower-fi as you inevitably failed to meet its challenge.

Ultimately for me, RUNNER’s fun is undone by a few poor design choices. Its genre is ‘endless runner’, but it’s not entirely correct to call it such; RUNNER is split into levels, with each level playing the same way each time- rather than a barrage of randomly generated obstacles to react to, the levels are static and can be learned over time. There’s no room for error, with a single mistake- no matter how minor- sending you immediately back to the very start of the level. Reacting to the same obstacles time and time again becomes very tedious very quickly, especially given the musical design tends towards slow-build crescendos, resulting in the opening 30 seconds of each stage being incredibly sparse of challenge.

Fin or Bin:

This is one of those frustrating “almost” games; with just the inclusion of checkpoints, or a health bar, or a lives system where you can make a couple of mistakes before being dumped back to the start, RUNNER would be a good time. The simplicity of the genre means you’re left with very little control over proceedings, and are at the whims of the game when it comes to how quickly challenges approach; dealing with one obstacle a second sounds very frequent until you’re put through it time and time again getting through the easy part of the level so you can practice the hard part again. Jump, wait, jump, wait, jump, wait… It’s boring, and that makes it frustrating. And the worst part is, after all this time, I still haven’t figured out a smart way to include a BIN.TRIP pun in my closing.


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Hyper Light Drifter

It’s been about 2
weeks since I played Hyper Light Drifter, and I’m still struggling
to put my thoughts down in a write-up. Time to just bite the bullet
and do what I can, but the problem is there’s just so little to
actually talk about.

Well, lets get the
obvious out of the way; it’s very pretty. Hyper Light Drifter is a
pixel-art Zelda-like, but before you start booing and jeering and
pissing, you need to consider the context; HLD was one of the first of
its kind, releasing far before the boom of such games. It’s not
fair to judge it for being one among an endless deluge of the same
thing when it was the first drop to drip.

It is, however, fair
to judge it for being absolutely devoid of substance. Alright,
minimalism is cool when used well, I am fully on board with that
concept. But HLD goes beyond minimalism- a whole bunch of stuff
happens in a tremendously long opening cutscene which tells us
nothing at all but features a lot of cool stuff that probably would
have been fun to actually play through, and then we are thrust into
the action.

The HUD implies we need to collect triangles to
make a square, which will then do something, or maybe it won’t? You
see, HLD’s ‘thing’ is that it tells its story without words.
That is awesome when done well in a story which can be told this way.
Here, it falls completely flat and I just have no idea what I’m
doing or why.

Which means we get
to make it up ourselves! Our protagonist, Tom Cruise, is the Hyper
Light Drifter- which either means he drifts on hyper-light, or he is
a light drifter who had too many Red Bulls, or he is a drifter who
weighs very very little. The triangles are fragments of the megaverse,
and collecting them all will make him Supreme Overlord Of All
. It’s a game where you play as the bad guy. Whatever.

Fin or Bin:

I just can’t help
but feel I’m missing something. It’s very pretty and seems well
executed, tremendously slippery camera notwithstanding, but after the
hour I tried to think of how I felt about my time in the Tom
Cruinverse and I realised I felt absolutely nothing about this game
at all
. Now, part of that’ll be the depression, but really- HLD
didn’t give me a single thing to acutally care about the entire
time. A whole bunch of stuff happens and then off you trot. The real
kicker, the cheeky icing on the cake, is it has the temerity to give basic
combat tutorials in fully written english, thus defeating its own
presentation from the first moment.

But still, that
feeling of missing something persists, and so into the Recycle Bin it
goes, ready to be given another chance when I have the time to
really, really get worked up into a lather about Tom Cruise. Watch
the first hour here!


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The Witches’ Tea Party

Some time ago I played Trick And Treat, freebie RPG Maker puzzley halloween fun game in which maid girl Amelia must find her master Charlotte in a haunted mansion. It’s cute more than it is scary and I recommend anyone who can stomach some light horror to try it out.

Since then, the developer has released a prequel, starring Charlotte this time as she attends a tea party with the other witches in the world. Much like TaT, it’s an explore-and-puzzle-solve-em-up, but the mansion is far more populated this time around.

The other witches are, as you might expect, quite prickly with each other, with proceedings coming to a head as one of the witches curses the mansion and is then murdered for it. Typical family reunion at the Beebs household, so far.

No one really seems to care, so it’s up to junior witch Charlotte to solve the mystery of who did it and why. …Well, not really ‘why’; it’s fairly well established that the victim had it coming.

Fin or Bin:

Theatre-kid midgi got let loose during our stream, giving each of the myriad characters a voice. I don’t think she’d let me Bin it even if I wanted to. But! This dev makes some cute and fun stuff, and TWTP is no exception. We’ll be streaming the full game until we Finish it, first part here!

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Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight

With the most lovingly-crafted pixelart thigh-highs I’ve ever seen, there isn’t a single frame of animation that doesn’t highlight our protagonist’s Absolute Territory.

…Oh! Uh, right, the game, then-

Genuinely though, the first thing anyone is going to notice is how sublime the pixel art animation is. Momodora’s crisp and fluid sprites share a pedestal with Shantae and other juggernauts, blending seamlessly with the frenetic pace of the gameplay, never obstructing it.

It’s a not-quite-metroidvania free-roam platformer situation. There are upgrades to gather but by and large these have no specific impact on your ability to progress in certain directions, more frequently just giving you extra options in how you traverse the world rather than opening up new places to explore. in that respect, it feels somewhere between Cave Story and AnUnititledStory, two comparisons which are only ever complimentary.

Also of note- it’s HARD. Hard as balls. Kaho is a priestess, not a tank, and she seems to take just a little bit too much damage from pretty much everything. Touching spikes is an instant game over. Thankfully checkpoints aren’t too far apart, and there are difficulty settings you can choose at the start of the game, but this isn’t one for the inexperienced.

Fin or Bin:

Oh, this is my scene. A lovingly animated pixelart platformer with fluid gameplay and tough challenging combat? Tough as nails boss encounters that dare you to squeeze just one more hit into their stun cycle? Thigh-highs? Sign me up. And better than anything else, it lets you turn screen-shake off in the menu.

(Please, every pixel-art developer out there, for the love of god, if you insist on putting arbitrary and terrible screenshake in your game, let me turn the damned thing off.)

This one couldn’t be more of a Fin. The stream is here!


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Game jams- the events where dev teams get a very short amount of time to produce a game from scratch- are an absolute gold mine of creative ideas. The compuslory lack of time investment is the perfect excuse for developers to explore whatever “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas they’ve had, without having to worry about ending up with a marketable product or fully realised game. The end result, then, is often more of a toy than a game; a single gameplay idea in a sandbox that doesn’t really have any aspirations beyond ‘look at this cool thing!’.

Receiver is a product of the 7-day FPS challenge, whose ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ seed was the concept of realistic gun management. Each part of the gun must be handled manually, from switching the safety off to pulling out the magazine and replenishing the bullets within. It’s incredibly clunky at first, as you uselessly mash keys in the wrong order trying to fumble another shot out of the gun only to realise you left the safety on, but as muscle memory kicks in the process gets more fluid and you start to feel- dare I say it- pretty cool.

Beyond that, however, there’s really nothing going on. You start in a random location with a random gun and a random number of bullets (sometimes as few as one) and are tasked with evading the randomly-placed enemy sentry guns and drones, while locating the randomly placed tapes containing the games story. There’s 11 of these tapes, and you have to get all of them in a single life- which, considering you die from a single hit, is an arduous task.

Fin or Bin:

The concept is one that was worth exploring, and would fit really well in a more fleshed out game- the horror genre would especially benefit from the sudden tension of realising you forgot to chamber a bullet, and the frantic scrabble to reload before you get nobbled by a zombie. Taken by itself though, Receiver doesn’t have much to offer beyond a genuine “you’re right, that was cool”; I don’t feel any need to play it again. It’s a Bin, but a good-natured Bin.


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Subserial Network

Changing up the format for this one- Subserial Network is a game that is 99% reading web pages, and no one wants to watch me do that for an hour. I’ll probably do a video like this for each game I play going forward- the contents will mainly be the same as the write-up, with the hour of gameplay uploaded as a separate supplemental piece.

From that one-line description, you probably already know if Subserial Network is the kind of game you’d want to play. The core ‘gameplay’ comes from figuring out based on context clues what keywords within a body of text will give you more information, and as such it’s almost entirely reading comprehension.

In a post-human world, society is now comprised entirely of Synthetics- machines and AIs designed to be as ‘human’ as possible. But, part of being human is being curious- and many Synthetics are breaking the law by modifying their bodies in ways The Machine didn’t intend. By attaching networking components, they are able to upload their selves into the MeshNet and become ‘serial’, leaving behind their perfectly imperfect bodies and becoming something more, or perhaps just something different, from ‘human’.

It’s a pretty hefty concept and one that I think will resonate very strongly with a very specific kind of person- someone who has ever felt that something wasn’t quite right, either in body or mind; some intangible incorrectness with who they are versus who they feel they should be.

The presentation, too, is something that will appeal to a very specific demographic. If you’ve ever stumbled upon an old forum, long abandoned by its regulars, and just spent a few hours reading through it- all the silly arguments, the dramatic “I’m leaving!” announcements, the many hirings and firings of moderators- you’ve experienced something like Subserial Network. Ancient blog posts, deadlinks, animated GIFs with corrupted transparency- the Old Net is alive and well, here, and it feels like coming home.

Fin or Bin:

It’s me. I’m that person. The target demographic for this game was ‘Beebs’ and they were spot-on with their execution. Subserial Network is one of those games that is over reasonably quickly (most estimates are 3-4 hours) but will sit with you for days afterwards. I’ll still be thinking about the MeshNet long after I Finish exploring it.


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Titles under the Humble Original banner are more often proof-of-concept toys rather than fully fleshed out games, and Operator is no exception to this. The game boasts one full mission of something that could potentially be much larger- the seeds are sown in ill-gotten emails and text messages for some expansive world-building beyond just the mission at hand.

It’s impossible to ignore how reminiscent of HackNet the whole package is- which, given HackNet’s status as BBLC’s GOTY 2019, is a mighty big pair of shoes to fit into. It’s perhaps an unfair comparison given Operator is a Humble Original, but as both games are available on the same platform (in Operator’s case, it’s the only place you can get it) it’s inevitable- and I’m happy to say Operator does about as well as it possibly could in the circumstances. It has a few toys HackNet doesn’t include, such as hackable cameras and even a drone you can pilot around the facility.

Excepting a few glitches (said drone can very easily be taken out of bounds), these additional toys would make for a very cool successor to HackNet. Time will tell if the team behind Operator ever takes it that far.

Fin or Bin:

The game was over within the hour, so this determination comes down to whether or not I would play more of it if there was more to play- and I absolutely would. With some spit-n-polish and access to more missions across an expansive story, Operator could be something pretty special. Hopefully one day I’‘ll get to Finish that game, too.


I’m getting real Earthbound, Undertale, and AnUntitledStory vibes from this one, which should only be read as a positive statement. It’s full of little moments that just make you smile, and it wholeheartedly revels in eccentricity without ever falling prey to the elbow-nudging “wow, that sure was weird, huh????” that a lot of trying-too-hard media falls foul of.

A metroidvania-lite with twinstick shooting combat, Wuppo seems to loosely be a story about depression. Wum starts the game at 0/100 happiness and does nothing but eat ice cream all day, until one day they make too much mess and get evicted. So begins an adventure that will see them… well, I don’t know yet. Within the first hour, I got back into my home, but that’s apparently only the start.

Fin or Bin:

Created by two people over a very long stretch of time, Wuppo is a total passion project and it shows. I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid using this word through this post, but damnit- it’s charming. Gonna Finish it!