When it comes to indie horror adventure games, Ib is a cult classic. With clear inspirations from 2004’s bizarre horror-adventure game Yume Nikki, Ib helped usher in a golden era of RPG Maker horror games — including some of my favorites such as The Witch’s House and Mad Father. Originally, Ib released over ten years ago as a freeware game, and within two years, the game had received well over a million downloads in Japan. Once the game received a translation, it surprisingly saw similar success overseas. Now, a decade later, Ib debuts on modern platforms with a remake in the latest RPG Maker MV. Does this updated version keep all the whimsy and charm of the original? Or does it fall victim to the soulless remake curse that plagues the industry?
At first glance, Ib appears to have little in comparison to the types of games we cover here on RPGFan. The game features no combat, no character progression, and no side quests. Yet, what it does have is a meaningful story with multiple endings, endearing characters who feel fully fleshed out despite our brief time with them, and creative yet challenging puzzles that feel right at home in any adventure game. While Ib does share more in common with visual novels and adventure games — both of which we cover extensively — the fact that it was created (and remade) in RPG Maker should encourage fans of the genre to check out this RPG-adjacent gem.
Ib opens with the titular character attending an art exhibit with her family. From minute one, the game welcomes the player into a strange world that shares the creative madness of an artist going by the name of Weiss Guertena. After being given control of Ib, the player is free to roam around the museum and talk to various NPCs — many of whom offer commentary on the bizarre sculptures and strange paintings found within the galley. One fantastic detail about the first few minutes freely roaming about is just how much foreshadowing and hinting is provided by each painting and sculpture. An additional touch that I appreciated is the use of “???” in place of words that the nine-year-old Ib may not know or understand.
Within minutes, Ib finds herself at the top of the gallery, only to be dragged into The Fabricated World, which is made up of the creations of the mad artist Guertena. Upon awakening, the girl is quickly met with a bizarre reality that gives life to paintings and voices to the voiceless. From the intro alone, it’s easy to see the inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Much like its inspiration, Guertena’s world is full of chaos and whimsy. Yet the world Ib finds herself in is much darker, more claustrophobic, and far more deadly than Alice’s mad dream.
As mentioned before, there is no combat in Ib. Any and all encounters in the game — of which there are few — are solved by running from the foe and either entering a new room or giving said pursuer the slip by sprinting around corners and objects. Thankfully, Ib can take a few hits because her life force is represented by a little red rose that she always carries with her. While an enemy may take off a petal or two, there are mercifully few instances of instant death. Ib‘s difficulty is quite forgiving, as there are numerous chances to restore health, and a generous autosave ensures failure becomes a learning experience rather than a punishment.
The weird and wonderful world of Ib is one of the most appealing parts of the game, and thanks to the unique art style, the weird creations in the bizarro-world museum come to life in more ways than one. Whether it’s a headless mannequin quickly rushing across the screen, a series of creepy hands reaching out aimlessly for the player, or a woman trapped in a painting crawling along at a menacing pace, there’s always something unsettling on the horizon. Though there are plenty of stationary figures that are creepy by nature and may cause a moment’s hesitation simply by existing. The art design is wondrous on all fronts, and the aesthetic impresses for such a small and unassuming game.
Not to be outdone, Ib‘s music also carries its weight. While most of the soundtrack is composed of remasters of the original songs, there are a couple new songs that hold the same eeriness and heart of the originals. However, some fans may still prefer the older versions. The sound effects are also top notch, as each slam of a palm against the window, every shard of glass stepped upon, and each wet splash upon the ground as something gets crushed can evoke small shudders along the player’s spine. The sound design is easily one of Ib‘s greatest strengths as it manages to create feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and whimsy.
While Ib‘s gameplay may be simple, it’s that simplicity that makes the game so alluring. Ib does feature a small party at times, but the interactions are limited to the occasional contextual action or a brief bit of dialogue about the situation. The time with said party is all too brief, for the game is also quite short and clocks in at just a few hours for a handful of endings. Thankfully, the large number of save slots makes going back to previous areas to do things a little differently quite easy. That said, the requirements to get other endings seem largely impossible without some kind of guide, video, or previous knowledge.
As a big fan of indie RPG Maker horror games like The Witch’s House and Mad Father, it was great to take a step back and play one of the cult classics that inspired those games. It’s a look into the past, into that golden era of rampant creativity within a limited toolset. With sparse dialogue, every line in Ib has a heavy weight to it that carries the story forward, and the lack of voices allows the creepy ambiance to shine through. Ib is a game where the old idiom “less is more” firmly applies. The simple gameplay, quiet yet haunting soundtrack, and short play time add a certain charm to the game.
Ib is a special little game that horror fans should definitely look into. Fans of adventure games might not find it as complex or amusing as the Monkey Island games, but it certainly has its charms. For anyone who has an image that pops up in their head whenever RPG Maker is mentioned, I’d urge them to take a look at Ib and see what’s possible when an independent developer decides to bend their tools to their whims like a mad artist expressing their delusions. Ib is a short and sweet experience that is well worth the time and money.