Critical Play: BABBDI

I played BABBDI a walking sim game developed by Sirius Lemaitre and Léonard Lemaitre and published by the Lemaitre Bros in 2022. The game is meant for single-players and is available on Steam. The objective of the game is to escape the city of BABBDI.

Right off the bat, the first noticeable thing about BABBDI is the creepiness of the game which I would identify as a major dynamic of the game. This creepiness is constituted of several mechanics such as strewn dead bodies, faceless people with garbled voices, signs spelled ever so slightly wrong and more. I think a large contributor is also that fact that the player can’t see their own face or know who they are or what they look like. Am I a human in a world of zombie looking people? Am I a zombie in this world? There’s no way to know, creating some sort of compelling urgency to get out of there and complete the objective. While I personally found the game far too unsettling, I think fans of the horror genre might appreciate the game for 2 kinds of fun: 1) Narrative in that there is and objective within a strange setting and the reward for playing more is understanding some kind of story for the city and 2) discovery in that the player gets to explore very uncharted territory by way of controlling the character in the game.

I think the game does a good job of distributing significant and non-significant clues/props through the world so that players are sufficiently challenged but are also given just enough to stay motivated through the game. For instance, a particular moment of success for me was finding the map just as I was beginning to get bored and frustrated. The map gave me a little more direction in my exploration and made me want to keep playing to compensate for the time I feel like I’d wasted. On the contrary I think a major shortcoming of the game was the pace of the buildup to understanding the story. About 15 minutes into the game, I had absolutely zero context or clues as to what the theme or major story in the game might be. I think this game attempts to toe the line between too much and too little info and falls into the latter category. 

To answer the main question, walking in this world is a strangely personifying experience that almost dips into the magic realism genre wherein the POV of the player being the protagonist tasked with discovering BABBDI creates this strange dynamic of responsibility that provides the uncommon experiences of discovery and fantasy and keeps player hooked.

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