Written back in 1941 by Jorge Luis Borges is a novel called The Library of Babel. In the story, the library is a world within itself, containing every book that has ever been written, as well as every book that will be written.
In the game, The Library of Babel, this story is used as an inspiration; one of the influences thrown into the creative melting pot. But it ultimately creates its own pathway through a new story about the future and what it means to examine the infinite. Get your reading glasses on and let’s begin.
The story is set 20,000 years into the future. In this world, there are no more humans, just robots who live there and build communities. You play a robot called Ludovik who at the start of the game is travelling on a journey through jungle and wilderness. His job is to find a mad, missing Colonel and it’s this tale which invokes some big memories of Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness in the narrative themes found. The Colonel has been killing robots and as you journey through you unravel a complicated and interesting story about robot life and humanity.
The writing and the world-building are good, whilst the characters you meet along the way feel exciting, intriguing. There is a lot of dialogue to take in at times though, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the plethora of stories and mini-stories as you progress.
The gameplay reminds at times of games like Another World, especially in terms of its 2D world and platforming. And it’s that platforming side of The Library of Babel which is quite basic; jumping and pulling yourself up onto ledges to traverse the vertical levels. This mechanic can be a bit hit-and-miss at times and for me it became a source of annoyance. Missing jumps is easy and that means you’ll be left to retract or redo.
There is a lot of talking to take in here as well, what with the variety of people found away from the main story, where you will have little mini-tasks to do by finding items. Some of these items will come across as fairly straightforward but other times there is some old-fashioned combining work to be done, all in hope of getting to the right result. You can throw in some smaller puzzles to solve too, helping you get through certain areas.
Stealth is also a big factor in The Library of Babel, as you travel along, trying to avoid robot patrols and lasers. It’s good, but that stealth does start to grate after a while. And it’s not helped by the checkpointing which isn’t the best. Expect to be found repeating moments as the game goes on. Whilst I’m on a downer, I found it hard at times to figure out where to go and what to follow. It’s so easy to get lost in The Library of Babel, unable to hunt the next objective. Maybe this was intentional by the developers, but I found it quite frustrating.
The Library of Babel looks lush though. It delivers a 2D world, but the level of detail and environmental artwork found in the backgrounds is amazing. The graphics have a wonderful hand-drawn feel to them that wouldn’t look out of place in the drawings of H.R. Giger or the best Star Wars illustrators. The little cutscenes that occur are brilliant, whilst the robot character designs feel oh-so inventive.
Props must go to the beautiful soundtrack too; it helps create the world around you, ensuring you’ll be involved and engaged throughout.
The engaging cutscenes that take us through this stunning world, introducing the main character, should be enough to hook you into The Library of Babel. But the main problem the game has is found in the mechanics. The platforming doesn’t feel intuitive enough to be enjoyable and the stealth sections annoy. There is much love to be found in exploring the levels and the world itself, whilst the strong narrative helps, but it ultimately means that The Library of Babel is a beautiful, yet flawed, game.