- Great multiplayer
- Clever puzzles
- Simple graphical style yet looks really nice
- Improvised fun with Fins is oddly amusing
- Single-player will give you a headache
- Re-uses similar puzzles a fair bit
Every once in a while, a game comes along that is just that much better when played with friends. Ibb & Obb is one such title, offering a puzzle-based twist on the platforming fare with co-op being central to the experience. Think of it as Thomas Was Alone, but with two small blobs used to solve each and every puzzle and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect. While it doesn’t have the quirky narrative of Bithell’s indie masterpiece, the cries of joy and numerous obscenities exhibited as you plough through the adventure with someone by your side more than make up for it.
Ibb & Obb doesn’t have a grand story or anything of the kind, upon loading the game and sorting out players you’re thrust straight into the first level. There’s not even a tutorial; the game feels very organic in that it lets you feel your own way around, making sense of the surrounding environment and working out how to use it to solve puzzles. There’s no text, the only vague hints you get are purely visual.
And it all looks gorgeous. Each world is awash with colour, two distinct tones providing the basis for each landscape, with a simple yet genius cartoon-style flowing throughout. Even the levels are lovingly crafted, littered with little “Fins” (or as I call them, “squishy footballs”) that serve no purpose yet fit the co-op theme perfectly. You can happily kick them around and even get a little round of volleyball going, it’s just a testament to the social side of the game.
The main hook is the gravity-inverting platforming. The “bottom” of the level is essentially a line, drop beneath it and you enter a plain with an alternate set of physics. When down below, rather than hopping up, a jump goes downward away from the line. This turns into a clever tool for dispatching enemies; one player can stay up top, their path may be blocked by a chain of spike critters that can’t be killed, while the other can go underneath to pop the white mirror image of the enemy, clearing the path for their companion.
Puzzles range from deceptively simple to requiring precise communication and teamwork. For the first few levels it’s simple, as you get to grips with the novelty of riding your partner while doing nothing, and boosting them up to previously unreachable ledges. As levels progress, more complex mechanics come in to play, and you’ll need to worry about your momentum as you shift between portals, busting through gates that only you or your partner’s character can tackle, and little gravity bubbles that send you soaring into the air. The fact that the only controls are run and jump means that the answers always lie in the levels themselves, although sometimes the solutions are perhaps a bit too unobvious.
With communication being such an integral part of the experience, you’re probably best off playing the game with a person sat next to you. Failing that, while playing online, a mic is at least recommended. Without that, your only means of in-game communication is by use of a giant squiggly pen tool which is controlled on the right stick. While writing rude words and drawing obscene doodles is fun for a while, in practice it’s not much use for anything other than highlighting points of interest rather than what to do with them.
While the multiplayer portion of the game is unquestionably ace, the single-player is just plain mind-melting. You can’t switch between characters; each one is controlled by one stick simultaneously. So with Ibb on the left and Obb on the right, jumping mapped to simply flicking up, you’re left to do everything on your lonesome. Some sections are challenging even with two players, so you can only imagine how the task of managing both of them in tandem feels. With practice it gets easier, but it’s best thought of as a bonus mode rather than the focus.
If you’ve got a willing friend, then I’d definitely recommend you take the plunge and give Ibb & Obb a go. While as a single-player experience it’s infuriating, in multiplayer you’ve got an innovative puzzle-platformer that provides both laughs and challenges in abundance. The gravity-twisting core is a great idea that’s well executed, and the pick up and play nature of the controls along the instinctive environment-based puzzles mean that it’s something that anyone can get stuck in to. The value you’ll get out of it depends on what you’re after; as a single-player game you’ll get precious little, but as a co-op game, and more importantly a social experience, Ibb & Obb is worth the price tag alone.