Modest art, minimal animation, few colors: Baba Is You looks like a bare-bones MS-DOS game, a dusty relic from the early ’80s. But it’s one of the most inventive games I played in 2017, and one of my most anticipated releases of 2018.
I won’t spoil its many surprises. Instead, I’ll try to concisely explain the way it operates. Baba Is You is a puzzle game, and like a good joke, it loses something when explained. Stick with me.
You play as Baba, a little bunny. Your goal is to complete a large collection of puzzles. Each puzzle fits on one screen and contains obstacles like stone walls, water, lava and lethal skulls. Each map also contains phrases that establish its unique rules.
Take this screen for example. It has five rules: “Baba Is You,” “Push Is Rock,” “Baba Is Melt,” “Lava Is Hot” and “Flag Is Win.” Each word exists as a physical object inside the game, which is to say it can be pushed around the map. By creating new phrases with the available words, you revise the rules.
You could try “Rock Is Baba” and turn Baba to stone. Or decouple “Hot” from “Lava Is Hot” and make the molten goop a bit safer — assuming you can find a way across the lava to begin with. Or you could just change the win state to “Rock Is Win,” safely move Baba to a rock and ignore everything else.
Baba Is You began life in a game jam, a competition in which developers turn bold ideas into a working prototypes under compact time limits. Creator Arvi Teikari won the jam, and has since taken the project and expanded it into a complete package. According to Teikari’s Twitter, the complete Baba Is You will be available in summer 2018 on PC.