Ibb and Obb is a puzzle game for PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network. It was developed by Sparpweed, a two man independent studio. The game follows a long line of beautiful independent puzzle games. It is unique in that it is designed almost exclusively to be played by two players cooperatively.
At its core, Ibb and Obb is a co-operative puzzle game. Though the game can be played by one player, it is not recommended. The entire game has been built around the two characters Ibb and Obb. The puzzles all involve the game’s tight physic’s engine and platforming. Each player controls one of the titular characters and must reach the end of the stage. Each stage is presented as a mirror with a top portion and a bottom. There are portals that allow players to switch between the top and bottom of the level, thereby switching their gravity. A player’s momentum is carried along when jumping through one of these portals which is often a key component of solving a puzzle. Much of the gameplay involves jumping on the head of the second player and using their momentum to lift the character to new heights. Unlike most games there is no long term punishment for failure, the player is simply forced to restart the current puzzle. There are hidden stages to be found and points to collect along the way. Ibb and Obb is very easy to learn but challenging to master.
The controls are incredibly simple and the bulk of the game can be played with the press of only one button and an analogue stick. Players move Ibb and Obb around with the left stick and jump with the X button. That’s really all there is to it. The game plays best with two players sitting at one TV but there are helpful additions for online play. The right stick is used to control a colorful chat menu that can be used to tell the other player where to move to solve the puzzle. The controls are smooth and unobtrusive. The game can be played by a single player and that’s where the controls get tricky. In single player, Ibb and Obb are each controlled entirely by the left and right stick respectively. Left and right moves the characters while up makes them jump. This control scheme is far less intuitive than the co-op controls.
Ibb and Obb is a beautiful game. Each stage looks like a dancing painting. The colors are vibrant and the visuals tend to mimic the colors of the lead characters. The game uses subtle graphical clues to assist the player early on such as a sparkling area that calls a player’s attention to an area they should explore. The levels are abstract and geometric but also include living elements such as trees and friendly faces. All of the characters that the player encounters are made of geometric shapes with black eyes. The most adorable of these are small round balls that can be manipulated by the player. Enemies are contrasted visually by being sharp and black and white which stands out against the soft colorful backgrounds. Levels transition smoothly into one another and can be accessed from the main menu as well.
As with the visuals, the sound design in this game is superb. The soundtrack smoothly transitions in the background based on the player’s actions. It is so ambient that at times it can go unnoticed but that is most likely intentional. The characters themselves don’t make much sound until they begin to interact with the environment. The sound adjusts to player input – for example when gaining momentum the sound of passing through a portal increases to match the speed of the player. The entire soundtrack is a mellow electronic sound, which is very soothing. The calming effect is very important because the game can get pretty frustrating.
Ibb and Obb is a charming game with a unique visual style. The puzzle elements really challenge players to look at the game differently. There are times when the best course of action is simply stopping to think about the situation. It is designed almost exclusively to be a two player game which is a much needed addition in an increasingly single player environment. The sound and visuals alone are worth buying the game for and the challenging gameplay, though frustrating at times, is incredibly rewarding.