Originally released in 2012 for Microsoft Windows, Ib gained a dedicated fanbase, inspiring countless works of fanart, fanfiction, fan animations and at least one fansong. I myself dabbled in Ib fanfiction back in the day, so I was delighted to see that the puzzle/horror RPG was getting a 2023 remake for the Nintendo Switch.
In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about Ib – it was part of my list of recommended horror RPG games in 2021!
In Ib, the player takes control of the titular character, a young girl who visits an art gallery with her parents dedicated to the works of painter and sculptor Guertena Weiss. But when Ib wanders away from her parents she finds herself trapped in an unusual world full of Weiss’ creations, brought to life. The player must explore the world, completing puzzles and making new friends, and hopefully escape.
Not only is Ib a bit of a cult classic in indie game spaces (especially RPG Maker game spaces), it’s also very replayable as there are multiple endings that you can unlock depending on the actions you take. This means that seasoned Ib fans like myself know the puzzles and maps inside and out. Fortunately, the 2023 version comes with some new updates – some of the puzzles have been updated or replaced entirely, and some of the maps have been worked on too. I really enjoyed the new puzzles and felt they slot in very nicely to the world I knew. I think it was a great idea to include some new material, as it gave players like me something extra to look forward to.
The 2023 release also includes a new communication system that allows the player to communicate with their companion(s) whenever they want, either in order to glean hints or simply to add more flavour and personality to the characters. Another great addition to the game is the existence of the True Guertena Exhibition, which you gain access to after you complete the game for the first time. It allows the player to view the artworks in full and to see how many they have yet to discover. This completionist aspect only adds to the replayability of the game.
But what makes Ib stand out? Well – one of my favourite elements of this game is the way it plays with perspective. As Ib is only a young girl, there are words she comes across in the museum that she does not understand. In order to put the player in her shoes, the unknown words are replaced with question marks. There are other ways the game plays with perspective, but I’ll leave that for new players to discover on their own.
Another element that sets Ib apart is the use of music and sound. There is a heavy use of silence throughout the game, meaning that any and all noise really grabs your attention, especially when you are being chased by one of Guertena’s painted ladies – these instances are actually really effective and in spite of the purposefully sparse art style, you get a real sense of fear when they come after you. The theme music for different characters is also really beautiful and memorable (and is part of what lent itself to fansongs back in the day). The atmosphere of the game is really something, and in my opinion it stands high above many of its horror RPG maker peers.
The new version’s only real issue is the controls, which took some getting used to. The player can choose to either use the joystick or the arrow keys to move around, but it is almost as though the steps are too big. This meant that I would sometimes offshoot how far I wanted to walk, which could be a little frustrating if I was moving things around in order to solve a puzzle, or if I was running away from one of Guertena’s monsters.
Apart from the at-times jerky controls however, this was a fresh update that kept the atmosphere and charm of the original whilst updating some of the puzzles and art style. It may only take the player 2 to 3 hours to complete, but the fact that there are multiple endings means that it is a game that invites multiple playthroughs. To my mind, it remains a classic worthy of cult status, and I certainly hope that the remake invites new players to enjoy the world of Ib!