Ibb and Obb
This console generation has seen an explosion in the popularity of co-op play, and games like Portal 2 and Ilomilo successfully introduced teamwork to the puzzle genre. Indie developer Sparpweed attempts to join that club with the charming Ibb & Obb. The end result is worth your time, but not without some annoying quirks.
The goal of Ibb & Obb is simple – get two characters together at the end of a stage. Navigating the minimalist 2D stages is simple, requiring only the analog stick and a jump button. What makes things tricky is a multitude of gravity-based puzzles. Most stages are split in two, and the titular, blob-like characters can travel on the upper path or the reversed-gravity lower half.
Many puzzles involve momentum, and you find high places from which to fling yourself in an effort to reach platforms on the other plane of gravity. The best games in this genre throw puzzles at you that seem wholly impossible at first glance, but give an immense feeling of satisfaction when completed. Ibb & Obb offers this feeling frequently at its best, but things eventually take a turn for the uninspired.
Early levels regularly introduce new gimmicks (stay close to your partner to light up dark levels), gameplay elements (bounce pads, new enemies), and clever new puzzles, but the creativity starts to peter out in later stages. Rather than introducing new puzzles that further test your problem-solving abilities, it presents basic platforming sections that task you with dodging enemies. Instead of feeling satisfied after conquering a brain-teasing gravity puzzle, I had to memorize tedious enemy patterns. Challenging platforming can be fantastic when done right, but in Ibb & Obb it can feel out of place and half-baked. What starts as a smart puzzle game that features platforming starts to feel like a ho-hum platformer by the end.
If you’re interested in playing Ibb & Obb, having a friend join you for the duration is critical. Single-player is an option, but its implementation is downright awful. In this mode, you control both characters with an analog stick on the same controller, and you jump by pressing up. Platforming sections can be extremely difficult even with two players at the controls, and they’re nearly impossible with one player handling both characters. This isn’t “better with a friend,” it’s “only play with a friend.”
My enthusiasm for Ibb & Obb waned by the end, but there’s no denying that its opening hours were a lot of fun. If you’ve got a friend to play with, its challenging stages cause plenty of laughs, frustration, and feelings of accomplishment. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not meant to be played alone, but Ibb & Obb is still worth checking out for those that enjoy solving puzzles with a friend.