ibb & obb might be the most adorable game I’ve ever seen.
Psychedelic colors swirl around the screen, weird geometric characters dance about, parties are thrown for no reason whatsoever; it’s just so ‘effing cute and I wanted so much to fall in love with it. But playing ibb & obb is like petting a dog and having it bite your fingers off. It’s cuteness is equally matched if not exceeded by its degree of frustrating, nonsensical design decisions, to where my head began to hurt so much I’m not sure how I ever managed to complete the trek through hell that was somehow hiding below the delightful exterior.
Just to be entirely clear, ibb & obb is coop only, meaning you better have a friend ready and willing to brave its horrors with you before you even press start (you can, theoretically play it solo, but it makes an already absurdly challenging game virtually impossible). And to this point there are some pretty cool ideas buried here, which force you to play cooperatively and make clever use of its main gravity inverting hook. There are two sides to every level, with each flipping your character over like you’ve cut a hole straight through to the other side of the world and gravity hasn’t yet realized.
Using both characters in tandem is almost always required to allow both to progress, be it providing a step up onto a ledge or using momentum to carry each other through. It’s a fantastic hook but its implementation here is unbelievably hamstrung and convoluted. The camera that has to contend with two characters often going in opposite directions bears much of the blame, tending to obscure parts of the environment or even your character entirely as you fight against it to keep moving while it holds you back. The pretty environments come at the cost of making levels difficult to read, often blending so well with platforms or bubbles I needed to float in that I repeatedly had no idea they were something I needed to interact with.
Puzzle designs, while on occasion genuinely brilliant, are consistently constructed such a ridiculous manner that numerous times throughout ibb & obb I thought we were breaking the game finding their solutions. So many moments are needlessly tedious and absurdly challenging, forcing literal split-second timing which ibb & obb’s floaty, imprecise controls make cumbersome at the best of times and a living nightmare at its worst. Each new mechanic introduced only seems to worsen the already overburdened experience, leaving me exasperated and fatigued before I was even halfway through. The abundance of network lag (which from what I’ve gathered is by no means an isolated issue) made parts of the game nearly impassable, as if the game was at last telling me to give up as my character ran wildly around at his own inclination.
The dissonance between ibb & obb’s truly marvelous artwork and mellow soundtrack and its reprehensible gameplay is probably one of the most shocking I’ve ever experienced. It’s bewildering and depressing, and I’m still finding it hard to fathom how miserable an experience it was to play when it all seemed so wonderful from the outside.