Review: The Library of Babel is a test of patience

Inspired by the short story of the same name written by famed Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and developed by a Spanish team by the name of Tanuki Game Studio, The Library of Babel is a stealth platformer that sees you investigating a series of murders in a remote robot colony in the jungle. It’s a game that combines point-and-click adventure style exploration and puzzle solving and pairs it with a platformer.

Largely, it all works: its stealth systems are rudimentary, but serviceable; puzzle logic is mostly straightforward, though occasionally falls into the same obscure solutions that adventure games so commonly fall into (though I’m also just Bad at those kinds of puzzles).

But it all falls apart whenever fast, precision platforming comes into play.

The sequence where I called it quits was one where a platform was moving forward automatically through a path laden with drones, spikes, and other hazards. Because of the nature of the obstacles, I had to be mindful of when to jump on the platform and attempt the course because I could easily end up falling too far behind the platform while I wait for one of the drones to pass overhead (can’t move when their lasers are passing overhead or else you die instantly).

And when I did get past those drones (I hope; might have been more ahead), I was faced with a sequence where I needed to press a button to activate a platform. Only, when I did and then jumped onto said platform, it immediately gave out and I fell to my death.

the library of babel

Moving quickly is fine. There’s a chase scene where I had to outrun some monster in the sewers that worked well because the sequence was built with constant forward momentum in mind. The start and stop method in this particular situation, however, doesn’t. I have to be quick, but not too quick; I need to slow down so I don’t get killed by the drones, but I can’t be too patient lest I fall behind and miss the platform. I understand what the intent behind this sequence is, but it’s not a particular style of platforming that achieves anything other than constant frustration and annoyance.

I’m not opposed to bouts of challenge in games, but The Library of Babel’s platforming gauntlets are just too much. When it’s about sneaking through heavily guarded spaces and solving adventure game-like puzzles, it works well. It feels much more apace with the plot and the set of verbs you have. The sudden detours into precision platforming don’t mesh well, each one testing my patience as some new obstacle gets in the way.

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