Edutainment games like Number Munchers or Big Thinkers! always felt like they had a sinister side. There’s something weird about someone emphatically telling you how cool learning is. As I perfunctorily did math equations in games like these I always kind of felt like I was being brainwashed. Baldi’s Basics, a hilarious horror-parody of edutainment games, embraces that.
Baldi’s Basics was made for the Meta Game Jam, and it acknowledges that it’s breaking the fourth wall as soon as you open it by first warning you that it’s a horror game and then referencing breaking the fourth wall in an in-game poster. It’s self-consciously terrible, and its jankiness often made me laugh out loud.
It basically plays like the OG Slenderman game, but with math, which actually is my worst nightmare. You collect seven notebooks, which each contain three math equations you have to solve to open the doors of the school you’re trapped in. You first notebook is a breeze—the equations don’t get much harder than single digit addition and subtraction—but by the second notebook the tone gets a little creepy.
After this, the titular Baldi will stalk you throughout the school, creepily smacking a ruler against his hand. If he finds you, you get a jumpscare and a game over. Baldi’s Basics isn’t that deep, but I loved both its commitment to the joke of making fun of bad edutainment games and how well it pivots from humor to horror. It’s free on itch.io, and probably would be fun to prank your friends with.