First of all, that’s not lb. as in pound. It’s actually Ib as in “Ihb” being the name of the female protagonist. (Yeah, another one. Girl power in Japan!) She’s just a little girl, much younger than Viola from The Witch’s House; yet she will also experience many of the same terrors that Viola did – just with another flavor. Instead of a large haunted house, Ib enters an art gallery. The game begins rather simply, as it’s just a trip to the art gallery with her parents. They said it would be exciting for her. And yes, it will. So exciting that the poor girl is going to need therapy for the rest of her life after this whole ordeal is said and done.
But one might ask… What’s so special about a haunted art gallery? Sounds like a cheap horror ride, maybe a weak funhouse gag. But if you took Ib at face value, you’d be missing the point entirely. The game revolves around the gallery of a recently deceased painter by the name of Weiss Guertama. Guertama’s artwork spans multiple pieces (but the real credits go to Kouri, who created all the pieces originally) and each one of them becomes strangely important throughout the adventure. The art gallery itself isn’t actually where the real fear begins however; as it’s once you step into to the large mural in the center of the gallery that things start to change. But you’d kind of figure that after Ib steps through the painting and winds up in the world on the other side.
So what of this fearsome world on the other side? Well, it’s like one big twisted art gallery, with plenty of puzzles and some intriguing horror elements throughout. The game revels in jump scares, yet there are also things that chase after you, namely headless mannequins (my biggest fear as a child) and the lady paintings. Sure, they might look beautiful, but they REALLY want to harm you. So you’d better get to running when comes by. By the way, you can’t kill or fight anything in this game; it’s simply one of exploration, puzzle and horror. You’ve got to use your wit to outsmart enemies while you traverse the ever changing gallery and finally arrive at the very interesting sketchbook area. This game is much different from the one hit kills of The Witch’s House however, as you have a red rose which serves as your life meter. When the rose wilts, you die. Every time that you take damage from a trap or an enemy, that rose will wilt a little more. Technically, you only get five hits until the game over screen appears. Yet you can recover the rose at any vase (as long as it has water in it) in addition to several blue “eternal vases” which can be used as many times as you want. Sometimes these help on certain puzzles when you have to take a few hits of damage in order to find a solution.
Your journey is not a lone one however; as you’ll meet a tattered young man by the name of Garry (the same name as an infomercial vacuum cleaner) who’s a bit older than you, hence you don’t really want the feelings of compassion to flow. (i.e.: That’s pedophilia folks.) But Ib does sort of start to develop feelings for the character. Also, you’ll meet Mary. And the less said about her, the better. Each has their own colored flower and a major place in the story. Oddly enough, the story is quite strong and memorable being that it only really revolves around three people: Ib, Garry and Mary. You will start to understand these characters and care (or loathe) them throughout the whole of the game, so be ready for an emotional investment. You also will have to do a few things in the game as Garry.
The atmosphere of the game is important, from its multiple colored areas to its ominous soundscapes. Music plays a large role in the journey through the twisted gallery, really helping to immerse you in the experience. Nothing seems out of place and everything flows perfectly, just as it should. There is also no real need to backtrack, but you will want to check out everything just because. I mean, what’s the point of an exploration game if you’re not going to explore? Sure, maybe some things will jump out and attack you or scare the hell out of you from behind walls, but if you’re not checking out every painting and every piece of artwork, then you’re not getting the full experience of this game. Ib is really all about the journey, as you’ll not find much solace at the end. So keep walking around and enjoy the world created for you to explore. Soak in everything, and then you can consider yourself having completed this adventure.
As far as the game’s length goes, you can finish it quite quickly. As a matter of fact, I’m sure you can get through it in thirty minutes or less if you know the exact sequence of events to follow. Ib has several different endings, each with a positive or negative connotation. The game also scores your morality, so don’t let Garry kick things when he gets angry. (Even though you’ll want him to sometimes.) The creep factor is quite high in the game, as it also entails the use of cutesy graphics in addition to some gore and disturbing scenes. Additionally, the endgame changes upon which ending path you take. Try to find them all, to discover the true ending. But unfortunately, that’s where Ib falls apart. Just like The Witch’s House, I don’t like the ending. But I didn’t mention that in my review either, did I? Anyhow, the true ending I feel leaves much to be desired and I personally prefer one called “Together Forever” which seems more fitting if you look at the game in a philosophical and moral state of mind. Kouri really should have included this in the true ending, considering what Mary is. And as I’ve said, the less said about her – the better. I feel that I was completely let down after the adventure truly ended abruptly, as if the whole thing never mattered at all. One never does find out why Ib was transported to that world, why she was beckoned there and why Garry ended up there either. One also doesn’t find out why this world exists at all – a living art gallery inside of a mural. The large fish painting is never really explored either, even though it is considered to be a notable piece in the game. So there are more than a few unexplained mysteries in the world of Ib. Maybe you can decipher them?
Unlike the case of Yume Nikki (which will be reviewed shortly) there aren’t to my knowledge any fan made sequels or spin-offs to Ib. No one tried to tell more of the story, or put their own spin on the meanings of the various artworks scattered throughout the game. But when it’s all said and done, I think that the beauty of Ib lies in its exploration of art. Ib is about discovering the mysteries in art pieces and each piece seems to tell its own story, be it a painting or a sculpture. If Weiss Guertama truly brought that world to life through his art, then it shows a great deal about the worlds that we create every day. Ib is about entering the mind of an artist and dealing with all the beauty and tragedy that filled his subconscious. It’s very much an ethereal experience, where one truly feels removed from the world as a whole. Simply put, you’ve never played a game like Ib before – and no matter what you think of the outcome; the journey will more than worth it. I absolutely recommend this unique masterpiece to anyone willing to take the plunge. Mainstream games have yet to show me anything even as remotely captivating as this. Ib single-handedly paints a picture that counters the argument regarding video and computer games never being recognized as art. Ib is art come to life!
Experience this mysterious masterpiece here: http://www.vgperson.com/games/ib.htm