I spent a bunch of time reading up on Jorge Luis Borges’s The Library of Babel in an attempt to get a better understanding of what this game is about. Look at me doing research! Did it help? Not really!
Library of Babel is a 2D platformer with stealth elements, and point and click puzzles. The player assumes the role of Ludovik, a robot investigating a murder. In the opening hub area, the player is introduced to Matriarch a singularity of robotic thought and a murderous colonel Kabor. The story then unravels into a story of religion, information and death.
The game looks gorgeous, starting in deep jungle with a background that is lit up by a shattered moon, and then moving across mountain peaks, temples and caverns. There is a non-traditional colour style with each area looking remarkable, like a page from a comic book.
The music and sound effects are fantastic, evoking a post-human world. There is a sense of the alien and unknown.
The problem is that, mechanically, Library of Babel is severely lacking. The platforming itself is okay, but it suffers from jumps that must be done early or else Ludovik will fall off the edge. For anyone that has played a platformer it takes a while to untrain decades of learned behaviour of waiting until the edge of a ledge. It is also hard to judge the distance some jumps might reach with the game not doing a great job of communicating where a platform starts.
The point and click elements are ‘fine’; there are some nice puzzles, but the interface is poor at telling the player when an action has failed.
Worst of all is the stealth, the player has to negotiate some very standard patrol routes with enemy robots by running behind them and then crouching near boxes and other detritus. The game later introduces new mechanics like lasers that require Ludovik to be stationary or they fry him. It is just never enjoyable or exciting to do. There are no varying states and either you get through the encounter cleanly or not at all. It doesn’t help that dying does not fully reset the patrol patterns, so a try and a fail can make the pattern different and kill Ludovik in new and annoying ways.
That is kind of it for the game. There is a shop with things to purchase and some collectables but none of them really extend the appeal of the game. Which is a shame because if this world and story were better supported, I think it would be much more compelling.
The Library of Babel has beautiful art and an intriguing story, but the game built on top of that lacks polish and evokes old-school design in the worst way.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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