If your co-op partner for ibb and obb is going to be your significant other, I hope you have a marriage counselor on speed dial. If it’s going to be a friend, make sure they return anything they’ve borrowed from you before starting this game with them. ibb and obb is here to end relationships and destroy friendships. This game is the true test of compatibility and the level of patience that two people have for each other. But I am getting ahead of myself. Before my wife and I wanted to strangle each other for missing that jump for the 30th time in a row or flubbing the end of a long and difficult puzzle, we were very excited to push start and play the cute and minimalistic ibb and obb.
Disclaimer: My wife and I are doing fine (sorry Sebastian…), and we still maintain that we loved playing through ibb and obb, regardless of any harsh words spoken to one another during actual gameplay.
ibb and obb is a 2D co-op focused, puzzle-platformer that many will say draws some similarities from indie titles like Journey, The Unfinished Swan, and Sound Shapes, and in my opinion, it has earned the right to be compared to those titles. There is a very minimalist design that is apparent from the very beginning due to the simple art style, but begins to show more signs as there is no HUD and no instructions provided on how to play the game. In terms of controls, you use the analog stick to move side to side and X to jump, and from these controls, a huge variety of puzzles are provided in each level, each one more complicated and head-scratch inducing than the last.
The world of ibb and obb is based on two sides of a thick black line. On one side, gravity is as it should be, but on the other, you are going to need to readjust your brain as gravity is flipped. Breaks in the black line allow our armless protagonists to travel back and forth between these two sides of the world, which is the basis for solving each puzzle. Enemies also present a danger, with one side of the world housing the spiky black blobs, and the other side featuring a corresponding white blob that kills the enemy when touched, causing the black blob to become a shower of collectible shards that are added up at the end of the level.
Communication is key in ibb and obb, and fortunately it has a very generous checkpoint system. Many were the times when one or the other of us would run or jump to the wrong place resulting in crashing into an enemy or causing us to have to restart the puzzle process. The puzzles made me think a lot of the Portal games and the insanely clever ways in which the solutions to the puzzles would finally come to light. Falling in with the minimalist design of the game however, there is a lack of obvious hints that clue you in to what you should be doing to complete each puzzle. We found ourselves trying to solve scenarios in completely wrong ways before finally having an epiphany and changing to another wrong way of trying to solve the puzzle. We persevered and managed to make it through the game, but more than a few times we had to call it quits because we were tired of our failures and incessant retries on what seemed like it should be so simple.
On the flip side, finally figuring out a puzzle feels incredibly rewarding. The early puzzles get you used to the mechanics of how the opposing gravities work, but the difficulty curve quickly ramps up and the game introduces new level mechanics without much warning. Following this, the game begins to require a timing and precision to complete puzzles that were not required before. This again feels like it comes from left field without getting you used to it first. One such puzzle required a perfectly timed and precision upside down jump on my wife’s (game character’s) head while she was using her momentum to shoot repeatedly through one of those breaks in the black line. As we had never needed to do anything remotely similar to this before, it had us very stumped on if that was even the right method to go about solving the puzzle and though we came back to it, we often abandoned trying in search of a better and more obvious answer. Even now I’m not quite sure if that was actually how we were supposed to solve that puzzle but we managed.
Many scenarios like this came up near the end of the game, with less of a focus on the fun puzzle solving aspect and more of a focus on frustrating precision and timing. While I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I solved a puzzle and was able to move past it, I hated when I knew I had a puzzle figured out, but had to take multiple tries to get through it just based on timing being slightly off. Multiply this by the fact that you have two people who need to get it perfectly and it can quickly become that test of patience that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. To me, this detour from a puzzle focus marred what was otherwise a fantastic game.
Despite flaws in the difficulty curve, I would still highly recommend ibb and obb if you’re looking for an awesome online or couch co-op experience. When all was said and done, my wife and I really did love the game. It’s rare when a title comes along that not only features couch co-op, but features gameplay that requires a constant communication in order to play it. Add to that the replayability through finding secret levels, collecting all of the shards in each level, and the complete mind-f*** that is the single player mode where each analog stick controls one of the characters, and you have yet another indie title that is destined to become one of the classics that PlayStation gamers will talk about for years to come.
Review code provided by developer.