Ibb and Obb

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Sparpweed for PS3 and PC, originally released in 2013.
Ibb and Obb is a puzzle platformer featuring two cute and bulbous characters, the short green Ibb and the taller pink Obb. Together they must traverse colorful gradient-filled landscapes populated by similarly styled flora and fauna as well as dangerous shadowy enemies. The inseparable duo must run and hop their way through the world, help each other overcome challenges, and toy with the land’s peculiar laws of gravity.

Ibb and Obb is meant to be played with 2 players, with one player controlling Ibb and the other Obb. While it is physically possible to play the game as a single player, the complexity of the puzzles prevents this from being readily achievable, as the game is not balanced for a single player experience.

Many puzzles require that the characters move in opposing directions or that one character performs precision jumps while a second character performs another set of actions. On top of this are the already mind-warping scenarios that arise from moving about in reversed gravity. Unless you’ve recently severed your corpus callosum (you can look that up later), single player gameplay is not recommended.

Online multiplayer is available as well, but given the inability to speak with the second player, solving puzzles together can be difficult. Your only communication tool is the ability to draw lines of colored bubbles in the air, which makes it difficult to relay a series of complex instructions. The game is best played in the same room with a second player of roughly equivalent skill.

Despite its cute and simple aesthetics, the game has no shortage of challenges, even when teaming up with another accomplished platforming hero. The opening levels act as a training ground to demonstrate the basic mechanics, but puzzle solutions grow complex quickly, and new mechanics are added every few levels.

Ibb and Obb have a small number of moves at their disposal, namely the ability to move back and forth, stand on each other’s heads, and perform variable height jumps. Beyond this, the rest of the characters’ abilities come from interacting with the environment and moving between regular and reversed gravity worlds.

Along the ground runs a solid line, which is occasionally broken by a set of white bubbles. Dropping through these bubbles causes the character to emerge on the other side, where gravity is reversed. In many instances, one player must take the low road, while the other takes the high road.

Enemies often stand in your way, but they are only dangerous from one side of the line. They are black and spiked on one side, but they have a shiny white counterpart on the other. Touching the white side causes the other to change into a bundle of 10 white crystals that shoots straight up air before hitting the ground and splitting into separate pieces and bouncing around.

Generally you will want the second player to be standing at the ready to catch the crystals while they are still in the air, guaranteeing that all 10 will be collected. They can still be collected once they split up and begin bouncing, but it is somewhat more difficult to grab them and you run the risk of them bouncing off a ledge or into the path of another enemy. You only have a short time to collect the crystals before they disappear

Each level ends in a tranquil area that fades into darkness, and then illuminates once more as you head seamlessly into the next level. Here you can see the number of crystals that you managed to collect as well as the total number available. Players may return to previously completed levels to attempt to gather a complete set, and there are often hidden bundles of crystals tucked behind some of the game’s foreground elements.

The basic lessons of movement, enemy killing, and crystal collection are learned in the first level, and things get quickly more complex from there. Soon, players are presented with situations where they must jump from a high ledge to burst through to the gravity-flipped world and land on a ledge on the other side. And you will encounter lines of pink or green bubbles that only allow one of the characters to pass between worlds. There are also many areas which offer more complex configurations of the gravity/reverse gravity worlds beyond the simple straight line or stair-step layouts.

There are a number of friendly flat-headed beings wandering about the world, appearing in various colors and acting as mobile platforms. You can freely stand on these creatures, ride them around, and use them to set up big jumps to solve puzzles. They are generally uninfluenced by your movement or the presence of nearby enemies, except in situations that involve special trampoline-like devices where you can position yourself on the gravity-opposite side and use them to bounce up onto a higher ledge.

There are also some smaller puffball enemies that hop around the world. You can interact with these by scooting them along the ground and kicking them onto higher ledges. You can even bump them up on top of the aforementioned flat-headed creatures, and they will in turn bop them upward, and two of them can bop a puffball back and forth. Just be careful, because you can fall on the puffballs as well, resulting in a squishing noise as the creature is poofed out of existence.

Practically every puzzle requires cooperation between both players in order to succeed, even basic environmental navigation, which regularly requires that one player jump off the other’s head. Eventually, you will encounter puzzles that require some high-flying antics like performing high jumps through bubble walls, changing direction in midair to get from one area to the next, and executing a series of precise actions to position both characters correctly.

In later levels, you will encounter large bubbles that let you float upward, but which pop after a while, making it all the more challenging to keep both characters together. There are also odd gray contraptions that require a coordinated effort to stand on switches and make the things explode out of existence (and generate an enemy or two to vex you). Things get more complex in dark levels, where only a small glow illuminates the nearby area, and you must position Ibb and Obb together to extend the range of your view.

Since the edge of the screen limits the distance by which the characters can be separated, you must constantly ensure that both characters are in a position to continue moving to the right. Getting someone stuck will require the other player to backtrack and repeat the puzzle in order to continue.

While it is fairly easy to die, checkpoints are frequent enough that you rarely have to repeat more than one puzzle solution. Also, if either Ibb or Obb is killed, the second character will explode a moment later, further enforcing the fact that the duo is inextricably entwined.

Despite any formal narrative, the characters are rather endearing, as Ibb and Obb will stare at each other when separated, bending forward or back on their legs to adjust their angle, which further enforces their connection to one another. They even fall asleep after a while - which may happen somewhat regularly if you are waiting for the other player to complete a complex set of moves - and they do a little dance when they successfully reach the end of a level.

A number of hidden levels may be uncovered by finding floating platforms tucked within the regular levels and positioning both Ibb and Obb on them. These hidden levels press the mechanics even further, offering more difficult layouts that will truly put your puzzle-solving abilities to the test. There are 15 regular levels and an additional 8 hidden ones.

Ibb and Obb got its start as a graduation project by Richard Boeser. The game was originally showcased at E3 as part of IndieCade’s selection, where it gained attention from Sony. Richard Boeser went on to found Sparpweed along with Roland IJzermans, and the game was developed in collaboration with a studio known as CodeGlue. The game’s atmospheric score was composed by Reimer Eising (a.k.a. Kettel).

Ibb and Obb was the studio’s first commercial release, although the developers have worked on a number of other experimental titles, including some that helped to pave the way for Ibb and Obb’s design.