Scarlett Shiloh ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
RPGMaker horror games are great. They’re simple, accessible, and usually not too heavy on the blood and gore or jumpscares. In the past two decades, there has been a huge popularity boom for these games, from the surreal Yume Nikki to the bittersweet Hello? Hell…o? One shining example in this sea of games is Ib, a 2012 horror-adventure/puzzle game taking place during a trip to an art gallery gone wrong.
You play as a young girl going to the museum with her parents, exploring an exhibit of the works of a man known as Guertena Weiss. Eventually, you find yourself alone in the abandoned gallery, and you are transported to another world where paintings and other Guertena originals come to life to attack and chase you. You eventually join up with Garry, a young man who was also visiting the gallery who takes on the role of your guardian, and Mary, a strange, clingy girl about Ib’s age who seems very intent on making friends.
Ib is an amazing game, especially for such a simple concept and pretty basic pixel artwork. The gameplay functions like any normal RPGMaker game, sans the battle mechanics. You walk around, interacting with objects, avoiding enemies, and solving puzzles that help you advance to the next area. Throughout your attempt to get out, you find clues that hint to you what this world really is—a massive, disturbing look into the artist’s twisted mind where nothing is real and everything is out to get you. The game doesn’t need to have complicated mechanics, because it does right by the storytelling.
The dialogue and writing are highly endearing. Garry and Mary’s characterizations are distinct and lovely. Their motivations show through their dialogue and choices in the game, as do yours. The game, while being overall serious and creepy, has its charming moments too, such as Ib trying to read an adult magazine and Garry shutting it for her, or Garry giving her a piece of candy in his jacket after she passes out. But one thing that really makes Ib stand out is its use of horror. The horror doesn’t rely on jumpscares; rather, it is the off-putting atmosphere of the world, the chase scenes, and scary imagery that bring the horror. There isn’t even that much violence.
Many RPGMaker horror games are hidden gems, and Ib is only one fragment of that diamond. The simple gameplay and art on top of the exquisite writing and excellent use of horror are what make Ib a lovely game.