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Ibb and Obb’s clever platforming puzzles will test your friendships (review)

Above: The colorful world of Ibb and Obb.

Image Credit: Sparpweed

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

I had never heard my brother so sincerely question my mental health before. However, a few hours into Ibb and Obb (an upcoming cooperative, 2D platformer coming out digitally on August 6 for the PlayStation 3), and it was clear that this little sidescroller was going to test the limits of our relationship.

That’s because every puzzle in Ibb and Obb requires precise, coordinated timing and platforming between its two players. And when things go wrong, it’s easy to start pointing fingers and raising voices. However, for all the uttered expletive and nasty glares, you’re just as likely to experience a nervous laugh, a victorious high-five, and a huge sigh of relief.

It’s not easy, and you’re going to have to apologize to your partner a few times for going left when you should have gone right, but Ibb and Obb will reward your patience and diligence with a fun, challenging campaign.

Ibb and Obb

What You’ll Like

Simple, clean design

Mechanically, Ibb and Obb is not complicated. You can move your character left, right, and jump. That’s it. Every level features a world split in two, with the one part featuring inverted gravity. Most puzzles focus on using momentum from jumps and the split between the gravity planes. If you’ve played the two-player coop in Portal 2, you might have an idea of what to expect. Communicating with your partner about what exactly you need to do to beat a puzzle is often more important than lightning-fast reflexes.

Keeping it fresh

Ibb and Obb constantly adds extra twists throughout its 15 levels. You’ll encounter enemies that’ll kill you in a single hit on one side of the gravity line, but you can defeat them simply by touching their non-threatening counterparts directly above or below them. You’ll encounter plates that transfer momentum, so a player jumping on it from below can send the other flying on the side.

These variations help keep things from feeling stale. You’ll find yourself wanting to play “just one more level” often, largely to see what else the game will throw at you.

Ibb and Obb

A good challenge

A puzzle game is ultimately only as good as its puzzles. Thankfully, Ibb and Obb offers a challenging campaign. Some solutions came to our minds quicker than others, and we occasionally found ourselves over-thinking some deceptively simpler ordeals, but most puzzles took a good amount of our combined brain power to overcome. And, of course, a bit of trial and error. My brother and I have played through many cooperative games in our day, but we both agreed that Ibb and Obb was one of the more difficult and rewarding.

We never felt cheated by uncanny or unfair solutions. Ibb and Obb gave us all the tools to beat it without the need for boring tutorials or even any on-screen instructional text of any kind. Instead, it slowly eases you into its world of gravity-defying platforming.

What You Won’t Like

Unoriginal art

Ibb and Obb features a simplistic art style that, while easy on the eyes, has become a bit of a cliché. The round shapes and solid colors will easily remind you of LocoRoco, Sound Shapes, Patapon, and a variety of other games that have recently used similar, minimalist styles. The whole aesthetic, while still occasionally charming, is getting tired and predictable.

Wait, where I am?

Since so many puzzles involve transferring momentum and making high jumps, your characters will often fly off the top or bottom of the screen, making it pretty hard to keep track of things. Many times you will need to land yourself on small platforms during these moments, which is a pretty difficult task when you can’t see where the hell you are.

Ibb and Obb

Don’t bother playing alone

Ibb and Obb has a single player mode. Don’t bother with it. You use both analog sticks to control both characters. Instead of using a button to jump, you move the sticks up or down. It’s incredibly confusing, and I can’t imagine how anyone could play through some of the more difficult puzzles, especially the ones that require precise, concurrent timing, with such a bizarre control scheme.

Conclusion

It’s pretty clear that the developer wants you to play Ibb and Obb with a friend. Just make sure you play it with someone you have a pretty good relationship with. Its challenging puzzles will certainly cause some bickering and headaches, but the high difficulty comes with a great sense of accomplishment and pride whenever you manage to best its biggest obstacles. Ibb and Obb is not the most creative or visually striking platformer, but it’s one of the more satisfying and challenging cooperative experiences you’ll find.

Score: 82/100 

Ibb and Obb comes out for the PlayStation 3 on August 6. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a digital copy for the purposes of this review.


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