Review: Babel

I wrote a brief review on Babel. I played it a few months ago so hopefully my memory holds up. The spoiler tags don’t work here, so you should read the original review on IFDB.

I played Babel for the first time after a long break from Interactive Fiction.

A lot has been said about the game’s story. Though I thought it went beyond the cliches that some reviewers have remarked on, it reminded me of a few other stories. The plot twist with the mirror is similar to (Spoiler - click to show), while the (Ant)arctic body-horror setting reminds me of John Carpenter’s “The Thing.”

Opinions on the prose are mixed: some say the writing is excellent, others call the characters flat. I’ve never really enjoyed the trend of dynamic character interactions in interactive fiction or video games, so I am biased toward the style of writing in the game and the way that it is separated from the game mechanics.

For the most part, I played the game without a walkthrough, but had some trouble toward the end in a guess-the-object puzzle toward the end (Spoiler - click to show).

One part of the game that stuck with me is the map. It is extremely well-designed. In most IF games I have trouble memorizing layouts, but Babel uses its directions in a reserved way. The left side of the map largely uses diagonal directions; the center of the map is largely vertical; the lab uses up and down directions.

This makes it very easy to memorize the game’s layout, at least for me.

There is also something to be said for giving the player visceral choices. The fact that you can inject yourself as much as you want is satisfying, kind of like how jumping makes 3D video games better.

I also enjoyed freezing to death while trying to figure out whether you can interact with the concrete wall in any way. As far as I remember, you can’t. Was that there just to troll the player?