In this day and age, the majority of video games rely on the internet in order to bring gamers together to compete, co-operate and socialise via multiplayer experiences. While this is no bad thing, Dutch developers Sparpweed, in collaboration with Codeglue, seek to remind us of the true joy found in joining a friend in front of the same TV with their newest project ibb & obb.
Players take control of a squat green dome with legs called ‘Ibb’ and his taller purple buddy ‘Obb’, guiding them through environmental puzzles in order to reach the end of the stage. The game world is divided by a thick black line in the centre acting as the ground, and through the use of special portals, each character can be above or below the centre, with gravity pulling each of them towards it. Add in trampolines that work through transferring each character’s kinetic energy to the other, and additional platforms that can only be reached by jumping off your partner’s head and you have all the ingredients needed in creating an enticing and worthwhile journey.
The game’s controls are simple and straight forward: ibb and obb are moved left and right with the analog stick and the X button performs a small hop. Unfortunately, the D-Pad cannot be used as an extra method of control in game, and would have been a nice alternative when maneuvering through the more intricate platforming sections.
Graphically, ibb & obb is made up of a vast array of different shapes, beautifully painted with a palette of gorgeous colour gradients. Along with the black spikey enemies and their exposed white bellies, the world is inhabited by an array of charming denizens – the tiny bouncing orange circles are particularly adorable. The musical score is equally as delightful; the many layers of instruments blend softly together, enveloping the players in a soothing and relaxing bubble.
The puzzles themselves range from being simple to perhaps a tad too difficult in places. Indeed, some of the later stages will have you scratching your head for quite a while – we solved a few of these completely by accident, and were most confused when encountering them in our additional play-through! That being said, there is no better feeling than when you finally have both ibb and obb standing side by side on a previously unreachable ledge. Each level also contains many hidden areas and collectable white orbs, so completionists will definitely get their money’s worth here.
ibb & obb dishes out the best it has to offer when played with a partner, either locally or online. Since a great amount of communication and co-operation is required, local play was our favoured mode. Playing online would work just as nicely through the use of a headset, but the option is sadly unavailable. The single player mode brings the exact same levels as its multiplayer counterpart, with both characters controlled via the same controller – in this case, up on the analog stick acting as the jump function. However, due to the precise timing demanded by the majority of the puzzles, playing alone becomes horrendously difficult and frustrating. It’s an opportunity missed: with a uniquely designed solo campaign and puzzles that could be more easily managed, ibb & obb would have doubled its lifespan and greatly added to its appeal.
Clearly developed with a traditional multiplayer audience in mind, Sparpweed have done exceptionally well in reminding us just how entertaining sitting down and enjoying video games with a partner can be. Despite a couple of minor flaws, ibb & obb is a joy to behold, and is fantastic fun when played as it was intended to be.