Monday 1 May 2023

The Library of Babel Review (Switch)

Styles of games always seem to run in cycles. Rogue likes, Metroidvanias, side scrolling brawlers etc. have all had their own revivals and now it seems is the age of the cinematic platformer. The pillars of the genre (Another World and Flashback) are already widely available on a host of systems but now we are starting to get games influenced by them and aimed at a new audience. Lunark is one and The Library of Babel is another.

The game is inspired by a short story by Jorge Luis Borges and deals with the idea that humanity has been long extinct. Intelligent robots now rule the earth, which has largely rewilded. Everything is harmonious until a library is discovered with everything that ever has or ever will be written inside it. This causes chaos as cults and revolutionaries start to rise. Amidst this backdrop you are sent to investigate a murder. There is also a heavy Apocalypse Now vibe that flows throughout.

The first thing that hits you is just how absolutely stunning the game looks. Every scene is gorgeous, and this is some of the finest artwork we have seen. All the areas have their own personality with jungles teeming with life and settlements buzzing with a mixture of neon and nature. The only minor complaint is that the game is often very dark and it can be difficult to see things at times. There’s also a lot of hidden passages and areas which don’t really have any visual ques to them so you’ll spend a lot of time crawling around on your knees by corners just on the off chance that there may be something there.

The story is strong and conjures the atmosphere of a noir-esque detective investigation quite well. There’s also a ton of characters to interact with and they all tend to be both interesting and well written in terms of dialogue that they dish out. This helps to keeps players engaged and keeps the plot interesting.

Gameplay is fairly straight forward and essential boils down to wandering around, jumping and crawling. A lot of the puzzles come down to finding an item and taking it to somewhere else, triggering switches or pushing boxes. This can become a bit dull at times, especially when you are trying to trigger switches in dangerous areas and keep getting killed. This is alleviated a bit by the fact that any doors opened, or key items gathered do stay in place when you respawn after death.

There is also a lot of wandering around back and forth. There are teleport points but sometimes you can get stuck in the dreaded ‘not really sure what I should be doing’ zone which can be frustrating. There is both a quest log and a map to help you out, but they aren’t the best. At one point we knew the name of the place we were meant to be going but couldn’t work out where it was on the map. Some people may see this as part of the investigation but for others it will become a drag as details are vague, especially if you come back to the game after a few days.

Overall, The Library of Babel is an interesting and engaging game, when it works. We enjoyed our time with it, but you can’t get away from the fact that there are long periods of time that can be a bit dull and directionless. If you can push through this though this is destined to become a bit of a hidden gem and it has clearly been crafted with real care and attention.

 Overall 7/10

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