Ibb is suffering from an existential crisis. On the surface, he seems autonomous. He has his own eyes and legs, after all, and can move about independently. And yet, when he is separated in any meaningful way from Obb, he's severely restricted. The distance between the pair can only stretch so far before one has to backtrack toward the other, and if one should perish, the other immediately combusts as well. Their lives are inexorably tied to each other. So, too, is your fate linked to your cooperative partner. The struggles Ibb and Obb face are mirrored in the challenges you and your friend overcome, creating a symbiotic pairing in which the satisfaction of success makes the it worth suffering through the frustration of failure.
Just make sure that you venture forth with a friend by your side. Although you can play this 2D platformer by yourself, it presents situations that are borderline impossible. Alone, you control Ibb with one stick and Obb with the other. Puzzles where you only have to move one character at a time are fine in this mode and, thankfully, most situations fall into this category. However, when synchronized movements are imperative, things take a turn toward the maddening. Trying to simultaneously leap up steps with Ibb while dodging enemies with Obb is a cruel ballet, so it's better to recruit an online or local buddy rather than test the limits of your sanity by your lonesome.
Thankfully, once you have a friend by your side, Ibb and Obb employs a sensible level of difficulty. The diminutive pair aren't the most physically gifted heroes. Gifted with just a modest leap, they shouldn't be able to get very far in this hostile world. However, their jumping skills allow them to make good use of the perspective-flipping environmental design. Stages are divided into two zones with opposing gravitational pulls. Step through a barrier and you find your feet falling towards the ceiling instead of the floor. Navigating this tricky landscape is how Ibb and Obb prove their worth.
Most puzzles boil down to using the power of gravity to leap over the towering hills that stand between you and success. Getting one player to hurdle a mountain usually isn't too difficult; Ibb can just climb on top of Obb's head and jump to higher ground. But the difficulty comes from ensuring both characters can safely reach the other side. You may need to slingshot through gravitational divides or slowly build your momentum by leaping off of progressively higher structures. Figuring out exactly where and when to leap as each character takes a lot of planning and experimentation. You may curse Ibb for not being able to double jump or Obb for being so short, but if you carefully analyze the environment, you can eventually discover how to move forward.
Ibb and Obb constructs monstrously difficult puzzles using these simple rules. New elements are slowly introduced, such as gravitational bubbles and helpful creatures, but the game doesn't rely on churning out unexpected ideas to keep you guessing. Rather, it builds on the core elements, pushing them as far as possible. Instead of spending time explaining how new obstacles work, the game builds on previous ideas, pushing the difficulty ever higher. It's exhausting playing this game in long stretches because you have to put so much thought into completing each puzzle. However, successfully orchestrating a fully realized plan is an incredible feeling.
Unfortunately, the underlying mechanics often add unnecessary misery to your problem-solving escapades. Whether you play alone or with a friend, you're limited to using the analog stick. This works fine for the majority of the time, but when precision is paramount, it gets a little tricky. Maneuvering the amorphous blobs with the D-pad could have alleviated some of the control quirks. Also, neither character has a shadow. This may sound like a small misstep, but it makes landing big jumps needlessly taxing. You often rocket off the screen as you bend gravity toward your will, and getting your character to land on a tiny plot of land when you can't even see him until the last second is an exercise in frustration.
Other annoyances crop up because of how certain puzzles are designed. Ibb and Obb is a difficult game, and that only makes it more satisfying when you do succeed. But there are times when the game starts to feel a little cheap. For instance, depending on what gravitational plane you're situated on, you may find yourself hanging upside down while leaping between platforms. There's nothing wrong with this, but the most exacting jumping sequences in the game are flipped, and messing with your orientation just adds extra stress to an already challenging situation. In other places, you may have to avoid enemies and land jumps in very low light. These puzzles distract from the cerebral joy present in most of the game. Distorting your view only makes the game more frustrating, not more rewarding.
Ibb and Obb delights in punishment. Beneath the whimsical exterior lies a devious and clever puzzle game that makes you curse gravity for being so strict. Although optional collectibles are hidden throughout each stage, simply reaching the end should be challenge enough for most people. Even though you're bound to butt heads during the tougher sections, working in tandem with a friend is incredibly satisfying. It's worth putting up with the occasional bouts of frustration to see this adventure through to the end. Ibb and Obb should never be attempted alone, but offers inventive puzzle solving for those who travel with a friend by their side.