ibbity obbity oo
The recent ibb and obb from Sparpwood not only focuses on co-op, but for all intents and purposes it REQUIRES co-op. Not just randomly finding a stranger online and having a go, you’ll need someone right there with you (or at least on the other side of a headset), someone you can trust, and someone who is pretty damn competent at video games. That can be a good thing!
Ibb and obb, the titular protagonists, are out to make their way from left to right (and a bit of up and down) along a dangerous path inhabited by all sorts of pure black abstract vaguely insectoid creatures who want nothing more than to instantly kill ibb and obb by touching them. Poor ibb and obb can only weakly jump into the air and offer up a meager defense against this onslaught. Fortunately for our poor pals those bad guys cast a white shadow that is their Achilles heel. If ibb or obb can touch that shadow POOF the bad guys disappear in a burst of rapidly disappearing diamonds. Get as many of those diamonds as you can before you reach the end of the level.
Sound simple? Well, we haven’t gotten to the key part yet. The entire world of ibb and obb is bisected by a heavy line. On top of that line, gravity is normal. Underneath, it is reversed and ibb and/or obb will run along upside down. The shadows dwell underneath while the baddies are up above, so taking them out AND collecting the diamonds requires ibb on one side and obb on the other, often working with very precise timing. Just traversing the level often requires the pair to work together either on the same or opposite sides of gravity as many obstacles are insurmountable without help.
The difficulty level of ibb and obb ramps up fast and stays there, with even early levels requiring a good bit of both dexterity and non-linear thinking to get through. You don’t just have to worry about the enemies, you also have to deal with fiendish level design that requires some serious spatial thinking. Later worlds layer on more complicated gravity and jumping puzzles until you might feel like things are impossible.
Which they pretty much are if you play alone. Ibb and obb supports single player using one dualshock, controlling ibb with the left analog stick and obb with the right. Trying to get both of them moving in synchronicity while avoiding traps and lining up jumps is a herculean task. Even with the generous respawn system that places you within a few seconds of the spot you died I couldn’t handle trying to trudge through more than a level or two at a time before my hands cramped up from a combination of contortions and rage.
Working in close concert with another player is still tough, and certainly will get aggravating fast if the players aren’t equally adroit at platforming. When everything works and you cruise through an area or finally solve a difficult puzzle the rush you feel is all the better for the challenges you overcame. No matter how you slice it this isn’t a game for casual gamers, but those looking to stretch their hand-eye coordination and exercise their thinking caps should have a good time.
I’d be remiss if I wasn’t mentioning the excellent score from Kettel and the sharp aesthetic. There is a pastel-filled minimalist feel to both the graphics and the sound which works really well in concert with the action. It’s never hard to understand what the game is trying to convey and things don’t get lost in the background. There is clearly a lot of love and care put into ibb and obb and anyone looking for a fun but fair challenge could do a lot worse. As long as you have a friend. I’ll be your friend!