We first reviewed Ibb & Obb last August when it released on the PlayStation 3 and were very nicely surprised by the way it looked, played and sounded, so much so that we got in touch with the developer for an interview. Now it’s being released on Steam for PC gamers to get their hands on, and it comes with a few subtle changes based on the new platform and feedback from the PSN release. Have the changes refined what was already a good game, or have they taken away what made it special?
As with the original review, we’ve played Ibb & Obb as a co-op game, though for PC the single player option has been stripped out in recognition that it’s insanely difficult and likely to make your brain bleed through your eyes if you attempt it. If you’re a glutton for punishment, don’t mind leaky grey matter, and have been born with more limbs than an octopus, you can still try it on your own by using one keyboard, but Ibb & Obb is not about that, it’s about co-operative gaming. In the game you control one of the title characters (Ibb or Obb) and have to make your way through psychedelic environments solving puzzles to get past obstacles and hazards. Fairly standard fayre you might think, the twist comes in that both of you are usually in opposing gravity planes and you have to work in tandem. You’re offered the freedom to swap between the planes in most cases, and will often need to so you can help your partner out. The only controls are moving left and right, jump, and drawing trails on the screen with your mouse. Simple? Only to begin with…
You can play as two people on one keyboard which keeps that same “in the room” co-op as the PS3 version offered or, most likely, you’ll end up playing with someone online at random, or with a friend. Communication is key, and failure to let your buddy know what you’re thinking will result in a lot of head scratching, shouting at the screen or popping into hundreds of pixels. When we started this game we didn’t start a voicechat session, though not intentionally, and what we discovered is that when we started playing the tools for indicating our plans were there without us having to speak to one another, and so we didn’t bother. If I wanted Andy to jump, I jumped; if he wanted me to stand in a specific spot he’d walk to it and wait; if I wanted us to perform an impressive gravity slingshot jump, I’d draw the path with the mouse. We actually got further faster than we did using headsets on the PS3. Could it be because we were more familiar with the game? Maybe, though I like to think it’s because the game is intuitive enough that you only need simple gestures to get your intentions across. Absolutely brilliant when you could be playing with someone who doesn’t speak your native language and you can’t see.
A significant change to our experience this time round is the stability of the connection. Previously we’d struggled to progress in some areas because of lag, latency and just generally poor internet connection on one end. Shifting to Steam we had no problems at all with the game running as smooth as butter at all times. The only hiccup we had was when Andy’s keyboard decided to stop responding and I thought he’d got frustrated with the puzzle and given up (a Hangouts message cleared that one up). The art style and sound presentation is unchanged and the whole game looks slick, even on our older hardware. There’s something very unique about the way it all gels together and gives it great presence and character – not bad where your main protagonists are blobs with only black eyes and two legs.
Because working together is at the heart of the game, and indeed the core philosophy, Sparpweed have also addressed some frustrations players had with the latter stages of the game where the platforming was considered too precise. These have been “smoothed” to focus on the puzzle solving aspect of the game rather than inch perfect movement, and also open up the game to the less experienced player. Again, could this be the reason we found our progress easier on the PC than PS3? Possibly, but we were in a rhythm in the early stages and this could easily flow through the whole game. Get out of sync though and that’s when you get bogged down, stuck or disassembled, even if it’s only until you work out what to do to move on.
We really like Ibb & Obb; there were rough edges around the PS3 version, much like the spikey balls of death you inevitably stroll into in the game, but the transfer to PC is a much smoother experience. The game calls to our love of co-operative puzzle solving, something that isn’t available in most of the titles out there. If you’re craving some simple yet beautifully taxing puzzle gameplay with another human being, don’t hesitate. There’s even incentive to get your best friend in on the action because the double pack has a big discount so that you can gift a copy of the game. Ibb & Obb is released for PC through Steam on the 26th May 2014.
A double pack review code for Steam was provided by Sparpweed.