Ibb & Obb review

Katharine Byrne
2 Sep 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

A delightfully intelligent local co-op puzzle platformer



Available formats: PS3, PC

Local co-op games are in the minority these days. Unless it's a fighting game, you often have to make do with just half the screen and a horribly squashed frame of reference while your friend takes up the rest of your precious TV space. Ibb & Obb, on the other hand, inverts this idea of split-screen co-op and actually makes that divisive black line part of the game’s angular landscape.

Ibb & Obb screen03

Don't be fooled by its simple art style; this game will test the minds of even the most hardened platformer fans

Both players begin on the line’s surface, but littered along it are hundreds of portals that let you dive above and below it. White portals can be used by both characters, but some are colour-coded for a specific player, so you’ll need to work together to help each other progress through each of its fifteen levels. That may not sound like a lot of game content, but these puzzles are no walk in the park. Each one demands a fair amount of brain power, with well-hidden secret levels to scout out as well to keep you occupied.

It’s easy to get sucked into Ibb & Obb’s weird and whimsical world, too, as each level blends seamlessly into the next without a single loading screen to break up the action. You can even walk straight into the first level from the level select “menu” if you carry on walking to the right. This would be an impressive feat for any indie studio when so many big-budget games are still plagued with cumbersome loading times, but it’s even more so when you consider Sparpweed is just a two-man outfit.

Ibb & Obb screen01

If there isn't a handy cliff nearby, the local animals make great replacements when you need to use a jump pad

This seamless structure also lends itself well to the game’s natural evolution of ideas. Puzzles escalate quickly, but they never peak too soon and are always fully explored before moving on to the next one. What begins as an exercise in jumping on each other’s heads to reach new heights morphs into a tight manipulation of the game’s wonderfully flowing sense of gravity, and before long you’ll be jumping on pressure pads and leaping through milky-coloured bubbles to send each other soaring higher.

The gorgeous undulating movements of Ibb & Obb are made even more graceful when they’re accompanied by Kettel’s rich ambient soundtrack. The rippling audio feedback you receive when you swing down to a lower platform after falling through a portal is particularly satisfying, but there were odd occasions when the music stuttered and jolted as the game loaded in the background.

You’re not alone in this weird and wonderful landscape, as bouncing black fuzz balls will try and thwart you at every turn. Most of the time they’re stationary, allowing one player to hit their corresponding weak spot on the other side of the divide to let their partner progress, but later foes will chase after you, forcing players to become masters of evasion while the other races round to save them. It’s instant death if you get hit, but checkpoints are generous and often place you back at the start of each individual puzzle.

Ibb & Obb screen

Only Obb can travel through the pink portals, so players controlling Ibb will have to find another way round

Eventually, puzzles and enemy encounters combine to create the toughest tests of dexterity. These can get frustrating if both of you don’t have pitch-perfect timing, though, and it highlights perhaps Ibb & Obb’s greatest downfall, in that it doesn't cater very well to players of differing skill levels. Occasionally you can hitch a ride on your partner’s head if there’s a particularly tricky platforming section, but more often than not it requires both players to be on the same wavelength. With no way to save your progress mid-level if you get stuck either, you’ll have to start back at the beginning if the game gets the best of you.

Ibb & Obb screen02

Bubbles might look like part of the background, but these can help you float across large gaps

Looping through portals over long distances also interrupted the game’s flowing elegance on occasion, as the camera often doesn't pull back far enough to let you plan your fall with accuracy. One particular section early on should have seen each player perform a gloriously smooth bounding wave through one portal after another as you weave your way down a series of cliffs, but the huge drop distances off-screen often brought us to a stunted halt because we’d missed the small portal window by mere millimetres. Hopefully this shouldn't be a problem for much longer, as the developers have promised a patch that includes markers to show where players are off-screen as well as a consistent frame rate of 60fps at 1,080p with 4x anti-aliasing.

Ibb & Obb is a game of quiet brilliance. It’s both intelligent and immensely satisfying when your combined efforts pay off, and its logical progression of ideas will delight, challenge and entertain throughout its somewhat brief running time. A few niggles hold it back from being a truly perfect indie gem, but we have every confidence that Sparpweed’s imminent patch will help elevate Ibb & Obb to the giddy heights it deserves. There is a single player mode for those with inhuman multi-tasking skills, as well as an online mode for lone wolves, but this is best enjoyed with a friend.