REVIEW: ibb & obb

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

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ibb and obb cover art Title: ibb and obb
Publisher: Sparpweed
Developer: Sparpweed
Release Date: August 6, 2013 (US)
August 14, 2013 (EU)
Genre: Puzzle/Platformer
Platforms: PSN
Age Rating: E
Official Website

I hadn’t actually heard of ibb & obb until I got the opportunity to review it. Of course, the first thing I did was look up the trailer. Do me a favor and just take the two minutes to watch the trailer here:

Okay, did you watch it? Good. It looks cool, right? It looks like a cute little indie co-op gravity puzzle platforming game. Right? RIGHT? Yeah, that’s what I thought, and that’s almost what it is. ibb & obb is a cute little indie co-op gravity puzzle platformer with a sadistic side that feels perverse pleasure from watching the players suffer. Of course, since this is a co-op game, I couldn’t play it by myself (well I could, but I couldn’t. We’ll get to that later) so I invited oprainfall’s own Hailee Kenney over for what we both expected to be fun gravity puzzles without any tears or gratuitous amounts of yelling and swearing.

As demonstrated in the trailer above, the screen is split horizontally by a line. Gravity is different on each side of this “gravity line.” There are specific points at which you can switch from one side to the other in order to solve puzzles and progress through the game. These breaks in the gravity line also work a lot like portals in the Portal games in that your momentum carries when you cross to the other side. This will often allow you to reach a ledge you couldn’t reach on your own without relying on your partner for help.

ibb & obb

Only Obb can go through the pink portal.

I’ve always been a fan of co-op games, but, lately, there haven’t been many real co-op games available. ibb & obb is truly a great co-op experience. The two players play as either Ibb (the green one) or Obb (the pink one). Ibb and Obb both have the same abilities: Walking and jumping. They can both jump the same height. The only difference between them besides color is that Obb is a little taller than Ibb. If one player dies then the other player dies, as well, and you are both taken back to the last checkpoint. It’s not like LittleBigPlanet where you can sacrifice your friends, and then just bring them back at the next portal. No, you have to actually work together to progress in the game without backstabbing each other for funsies. I mean, you can still screw each other over, but if you murder your partner then you’ll die, too, which sucks a lot of the fun out doing it in the first place. Co-op games should be about teamwork, and ibb & obb definitely requires teamwork. I really admire the game for that.

A lot of my admiration goes out the window thanks to the game’s difficulty, though. The difficulty curve of this game is way off. Imagine you’re standing a few feet from the base of a sheer cliff. It’s easy to walk the few steps to the cliff itself, but then you have to climb straight up to the top, and when you finally make it to the top of the cliff some jerk pushes you back down to the bottom. It’s like that. The first few levels are easy, but soon Hailee and I were getting stuck on puzzles almost constantly. And, for the last few levels, there were quite a few puzzles where I felt like the game was mad at us for getting this far, and wanted to punish us. These puzzles weren’t hard to solve- they were just rude. Things like being trapped with enemies that one-shot you in a small area, and needing to just wait it out while slowly getting cornered. Although Ibb and Obb don’t have any attacks, enemies can be destroyed simply by touching their white shadows on the opposite side of the gravity line. Getting there isn’t always easy, though. The later levels were more enemy obstacle courses than puzzles. There’s hard puzzles, and then there’s just mean. Solving a difficult puzzle results in a feeling of accomplishment, but many of the later puzzles in ibb & obb just left us feeling relieved that we’d actually beaten it. As Hailee put it, “I never really got so angry at the game I wanted to rage quit, but I actually felt like the game defeated me.” It doesn’t really help that there’s no real goal besides beating a level for the sake of beating it and reaching the dance party at the end of every level. There are also crystal collectibles that don’t do anything from what I could tell.

ibb & obb

These gravity bubbles were both annoying and kind of fun.

ibb & obb is comprised of fifteen levels, split into five groups of three levels each, as well as five additional “secret” levels you can unlock. In the main fifteen levels, new mechanics are introduced at a good pace, and many of them are awesome. There was one level where everything was dark, but Ibb and Obb were light sources. The light they shed was minimal to the point of being almost useless if they were too far apart, but was large enough to be helpful if they were close together. Unfortunately, like Zelda dungeon items, these mechanics were often forgotten outside of a few levels. I would have liked to have seen the puzzles get more complex as the varying mechanics introduced were combined to form a super puzzle that Hailee and I could fight with our razor sharp wits, and defeat in an epic battle of good versus evil. However, none of that happened. Instead of solving a super puzzle, the last level was probably the easiest. We reached the top the metaphorical cliff from earlier, dodged the jerk trying to throw us back down, and, at the summit, all we found was a slide down to the bottom again. Totally anti-climactic.

ibb & obb

This was a lot of fun. I wish there had been more!

Endings aside, there’s a lot about this game that isn’t disappointing. One obvious example is the game’s aesthetic. As you can clearly see from the screenshots and trailer, ibb & obb is gorgeous. The art style is simplistic and elegant. The smooth, soft landscapes in the game are perfectly matched by the similarly gentle music. The two go hand-in-hand, and help calm the rage you’ll feel at some of the puzzles. The designs and color schemes change throughout the game. The contrasting dynamic of warm and cold colors on each side of the gravity line serves to emphasize the changes in gravity. Each level seamlessly transitions into the next, including the design and color changes. The game is beautiful, and I want to commend the artists involved. You guys are great.

Something else the game does right is accessibility. One downside to co-op games is being able to get together and play, whether this is because of busy schedules or physical distance. ibb & obb solves this problem in many ways. You can, of course, play local co-op, like Hailee and I did. I personally think this is the best way to play the game. However, Sparpweed has also included online gameplay. You can either invite someone specifically to play with you, or you can join a random game online. There’s no voice chat, though, so your only way to communicate is through drawing lines on the screen with the right joystick. In this way you can direct your partner. Hailee and I even used this for local play. It’s an incredibly useful tool. In these ways, it’s easy to find someone with whom to play ibb & obb, but there’s also a single player mode. Sparpweed has called it a “bonus” mode. The game is not intended to be played by one person. It’s a lot more difficult, as you must control both Ibb and Obb at the same time, each one with one joystick. It’s possible, but not nearly as fun nor as easy as playing with a friend.

There’s no doubt that ibb & obb is more fun if you aren’t on a time crunch to review it. Despite some of its flaws, Hailee and I both enjoyed the game. She even bought it for $9.99 on PSN after having played through it with me! Although we found the game difficult, we were also drawn in by its charm, and while solving the puzzles themselves only brought relief instead of a feeling of accomplishment, the dance parties at the end of every level made it all worth it. There’s no plot to drive you forward, only the next dance party. ibb & obb is a fun puzzle adventure. It might not be perfect, but at the end of the day we both enjoyed the game, and that’s what really matters.

ibb & obb

Hailee says, “Do yourself a favor and get as many of the crystals as you can to enjoy the excited dancing!”

Review Score
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Review copy provided by publisher.