Depending on how you play Ibb & Obb, it will either be a delightful game of jolly cooperation or an exercise in multitasking hell. Despite its inviting looks, Ibb & Obb is a deceitfully challenging game. It’s cooperative-based platforming requires coordination on a grand scale, as well as extreme dexterity should you play solo. Guiding the two protagonists through their treacherous world is a tall order, but an immensely rewarding one should you prevail.
Ibb & Obb follows, well… Ibb and Obb, a couple of cute, rounded creatures on a quest to remove the strange, spikey black monsters infesting the land. Or so I assume – the game doesn’t have an actual, defined narrative. It simply drops you into the game with nary a hint of context or background. You’re left to piece the situation together yourself, the game seeing no need to justify mechanics or explain their purpose in the framework of the world. That they’re necessary for play is all that really matters.
The world of Ibb & Obb is split into two halves that are near identical to each other, the polarity of their gravity opposite one another. So where you’d be standing right-side up on one half, in the other you’d be upside-down. Shifting between worlds acts as the crux of Ibb & Obb’s many puzzles, whether it be slaying adversaries or jumping around.
How you move Ibb and Obb around changes based on whether it’s handled alone or with a friend. Played solo, you control the duo using only the analog sticks; the left for the Ibb (the green one) and the right for Obb (the pink one). Moving them up (or down) makes them jump, which, while easy to get the hang of, is a touch wonky. Momentum is easy to lose while airborne due to having to use the analog sticks, as unless you manage to find the sweet-spot, you’ll often fall just short of your destination. It’s not a problem in cooperative play because the X button controls leaps instead, remedying that annoyance completely. But unless you’ve got someone to join you, you’ll have to make due.
Puzzles revolve around using the two characters in concert. Often this amounts to acting as stepping stones or springboards for one another, since most of the stages contain towering walls that neither Ibb or Obb can scale alone. Coordination is key, puzzles requiring ultra-precise timing in several cases, such as propelling the duo up a series of bubbles. A challenge that borders on improbability because of the insufferable camera and its limited range.
It tries to follow both characters at all times, but should one ascend to higher ground without the other, it focuses squarely on them. Whomever’s left behind is then forced to shuffle about with no idea where they are. Problematic, especially whenever bubbles are involved, as you’re supposed to move the duo in sync. You can’t send one at a time. It’s one the rare cases of borderline insurmountable challenge, regardless of single or cooperative play.
Ibb & Obb is a surprisingly monstrous trial. Any room for error all but vanishes as you move deeper into the game. The early stages suggest a leisurely experience: simple obstacles and forgiving checkpoints granting a more than fair level of leeway. Ibb & Obb adopts more devious tactics over time, however, moving the game from a relaxed affair to an intensely taxing one. The challenge is welcome, most of the time, providing difficulty without demanding too much of the player(s). The last few areas, however, contain at least a couple of sections all but impossible – especially if taken on solo – due to the amount of multitasking and pin-point timing they require.
For instance: In the second to last level, toward the very end of the area, you come across a trio of makeshift pillars. Hovering over the tips of them are small, airborne foes that dive to the ground the second you cross their paths. What you’re supposed to do is run one of the characters back and forth through their line of sight to keep them pinned on the ground while the other ascends the pillars quickly so that they can vanquish the little buggers once they’ve reached the top. With a friend in tow, it’s conquered easily enough with patience. Alone, however, it’s an exercise in frustration. You have to force yourself to master multitasking to succeed.
I played through most of Ibb & Obb solo. Primarily because I wanted to see how viable that style of play would be. Aside from a few choke points brought on by either my inability to monitor two characters, it was perfectly manageable. Extremely difficult, but achievable. The game provides a much greater challenge by doing so, but nothing impossible.
Cooperative play makes the game easier to handle, but only if played locally. Online play was riddled with lag, both me and my partner teleporting about the level making coordination hopeless. Your mileage may vary, but unless you and a friend have a superb connection, chances are lag will be prevalent. A drawing tool mapped to the right stick makes communication possible and mostly intuitive. My partner and I were able to establish a easily understandable shorthand quickly, rarely at a loss as to what we were trying to convey to one another. That said, it’s no replacement for verbal exchange.
Ibb & Obb is quite lengthy. Took me around 9 hours to finish on my first run, and that’s without encountering any of the bonus levels hidden about; harder, one-off stages that require some advanced techniques to overcome. They’re fun and well-worth seeking out, but take some careful searching to find. I encountered three of them at most, only managing to finish two of them.
Despite its missteps, Ibb & Obb is enjoyable. The troublesome camera hinders a few puzzles and solo-play can be nigh impossible in spots, both unfortunate setbacks. But with a friend in tow, Ibb & Obb shines, the difficult evening out splendidly and the fun doubling exponentially. Though there are a few hurdles, Ibb & Obb more than rewards you for sticking with it to the end.