A (Weird) Night At The Museum

HIGH Great plot, excellent pace, strong ambiance.

LOW Too short and lacks depth in exploring its themes and artwork.

WTF The crawling painting ladies.

Ib (2023) is a remake of the original made with RPG Maker in 2012.

Those who were into indies at that time know that RPG Maker was the preferred tool for amateurs creators, and it’s an incredible tool for that purpose. It’s simple to learn and use, has a wide variety of objects to build a game with, and the results are easy to publish.

However, despite its capabilities, the tool tended to make homogeneous-seeming products due to the lack of graphic and formula options. After all, it wasn’t a suite for professionals, and with the relatively limited content within, it’s not easy to make a unique experience. However, if we looked hard enough, we could find some special gems — things like Yume Nikki, Omori, or… Ib.

Ib is a young girl that visits an art gallery with her parents. No further explanation is given to us at the beginning, nor it is needed. The scene is established, and we start by quickly exploring the gallery, talking with other visitors and observing the artwork.

The exhibition is about an artist called Guertena. We know virtually nothing about him, but judging by the work, we quickly realize he’s an artist with somewhat whimsical tastes. As we explore further, we reach the top floor, which contains a giant painting. At this point, the lights go dim and weird things start to happen, including the disappearance of all visitors.

In classic Alice in Wonderland style, Ib is teleported into a kind of parallel universe — it’s a dark version of the gallery, and the adventure unfolds as we delve deeper and unveil the mysteries of Guertena’s art.

The world takes the form of a spooky labyrinth decorated with paintings and sculptures. However, the game is linear, so we hardly ever get lost — which is a pity! We interact with the art, and some of it activates scary moments and leads us to solve puzzles. At this point it’s a straightforward progression of completing a puzzle to go on to the next one, which will then take us to another one, and so on.

The puzzles aren’t very complicated. Basically, we need to look for things that stand out in the environment and pay attention to the labels on art. It’s easy but not boring — simple, but with a good pace of exploration. In fact, its simplicity keeps us interested and moving forward while learning more about what’s going on.

Another aspect that keeps us moving forward is the plot. Although not original, it was well-matched to Ib‘s concept. I won’t reveal too much because the plot is the most important element of this experience, but I must congratulate the creator of Ib for not reducing the game to being another cliché horror story. In an implicit way, Ib touches on sensitive topics, and through puzzle after puzzle we are confronted with themes that, in one way or another, are related to our protagonist’s journey and the anxieties of being a teenager.

While themes like childhood innocence, loneliness, fear, jealousy, family, and sanity are explored, I think Ib missed an opportunity to go deeper to better convey what was going on in the plot. For a game whose setting is an art gallery, it’s surprising that the paintings and sculptures are often out of step with what’s going on — in a way, it feels that the art isn’t the point, despite being so core to the concept. Plus, I do think an opportunity was missed by not using real works of art as inspiration. Throughout the entire game, I could only identify two or three paintings inspired by, maybe, Van Gogh and Dalí.

One of the main objectives of play in Ib is to collect works of art. There are 150 pieces to collect, and to see all of them it’s probably necessary to play the game more than once. As such, replayability is not a problem, because the story is short (each playthrough is about an hour) and has multiple endings. I’d say that it’s worth seeing each one.

It’s true that Ib lacks depth when exploring its themes and I did think that a longer campaign might afford it that opportunity. Perhaps this Switch remake will galvanize its popularity and create an opportunity for the developer to create a more expansive and ambitious iteration. However, as it stands I’d still recommend Ib to anyone interested in the concept, or to those looking for a short, but still meaningful game to decompress with.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by kouri and published by PLAYISM. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Use of Tobacco, and Mild Blood. There are scenes of stabbings, murders, and blood. In addition, there are themes that can be difficult for children to understand, probably leaving them disturbed. keep this one to teens and up.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The game can be played without audio. The only audio this game makes is the soundtrack and the environment sounds. Although the game is based on puzzles, there are no sound cues needed to solve them. In my view, the game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game doesn’t have a controller map diagram but offers a display with control icons in the upper left corner. The controls are very simple. Movement is on the left stick. Interact with the objects in the map is A. Access the menu and inventory is B. Talk to your companions is X. Zoom in is Y.

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