Every week, the Switch eShop is bombarded by an onslaught of new releases. Often, a good majority of them end up being games that were ported over from a previous generation, or more shovelware that could easily be found on your mother's smartphone. Because of all of the noise, many unique games can go unnoticed or forgotten – but with a name like Baba Is You, you have to at least be curious enough to stop and check this game out. Is it a game about cooking sponge cakes? Or is it a game about an elderly woman named Baba who has Ditto-like transforming abilities who uses her powers to rob banks? Surprisingly, neither of those guesses are correct.
To put it simply, Baba Is You is a Sokoban-like grid-based 2D puzzler that lays out its rules and then asks you kindly to break them. You’ll often play as a little white rabbit-ish creature called Baba, which spends its time pushing word blocks around levels. Those blocks are used to formulate the rules of each level.
To further explain, let's try picturing a level: the words “Baba” “Is” “You” and separately, “Rock” “Is” “Push” can be seen set into word blocks. Additionally, there are a few actual rocks. From these word blocks, the rules of the game are derived: you, the player, are Baba and Rocks are able to be pushed. If you push any of the word blocks out of their line, you’ll break the rules they have set in place. If you push the word “Rock” out of line then rocks can no longer be pushed. If you push the word “You” out of line you simply become nothing and must try again. However, if you were to replace the word “Baba” from its line with the word “Rock”, you the player would then take control of the actual rock. Those simple changes can open up a wealth of options and opportunities, or they could lead to absolutely nothing. Thankfully, you can undo any mistake you make by tapping or holding the Y button.
Each level contains a “Win” block which is used in combination with other blocks to beat each level. If the word “Win” is matched up with the words “Is” and “Star”, then your objective is to reach an actual star on the map. Some rules within a level cannot be changed and will be immobile in a corner; however, you still may be able to find ways to build rules off of those blocks. Some of the earlier levels allow a little more flexibility on how they can be solved, but getting to the goal in later levels are a little more restrictive.
Now, these puzzles are insanely creative. Turning a brick wall into a flock of Babas and then being able to take control of them is hilariously impressive the first time or two. When you solve your first few puzzles, you’ll feel that sudden jolt of euphoria and you won’t want to stop pushing forward.
Those feelings, however, won’t stick around long, because after the first 15 or so puzzles the difficulty ramps up tremendously. A puzzle may come to a point where things just don't make sense and you’ll feel your brain frying as you frantically push things around until something works. Imagine trying to open a door with a random set of janitor keys, or open a safe with only half of the combination. Eventually, you’ll find your solution, but you’re not always going to have a great time getting to that point.
This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if there were a way to skip levels or if there was a toggleable hint system implemented, similar to something seen within the Professor Layton series. Say, if you make too many wrong moves, the next block the game wants you to push might glow. Usually, you’ll have a few puzzles on your plate to solve, but if you can’t figure those out then there’s no way to move ahead. Frustration quickly sets in, and you may find yourself putting the game down and never returning – which is a real shame because when Baba is You 'clicks', it offers some of the best puzzle action you're going to find on Switch.
Baba’s cutesy hand-drawn art style plays well in its favour and its simplicity helps to keep you focused and free of distraction; it's also utterly charming in its own way. However, its music at times feels a bit off-putting and might leave you with a feeling of unease – which, when you're stuck on a puzzle, is the last thing you want. Each track features only a few musical layers and can get quickly repetitive. From what we’ve also gained, there isn’t really any story to follow... unless we’re missing some bigger picture.
Baba Is You is like a compilation of gift shop brain teasers; they’re not for everyone, but some people can’t get enough of them. And while it may sound like just another sketchy smartphone game, it’s surprisingly one of the most unique puzzlers you can find on the Switch and the way in which it encourages you to break its rules and create your own ones is refreshing and unique. Its sudden difficulty spike and lack of a hint system could easily discourage some from continuing, but if you enjoy a good brain teasing, you could easily spend hours getting lost within Baba’s puzzles. Just make sure to take a break or two, or you may forget which Baba is you.