Today I’ll be looking at the horror game Ib. This is a little out of my usual genre, but then it is a bit of an unusual horror game, with a heavier focus on its sparse characters and puzzle solving. To me, while it did have some scares, it ultimately inspired more so concern and attachment for the characters and fascination.
The game starts with the main character, Ib, arriving at an art museum with her parents. While they talk with the receptionist, you’re given the chance to explore the gallery freely, which features the works of a famous artist named Guertena Weiss. Ib herself never seems to speak, but you can talk to the others viewing the art, and get a good idea how they’re received.
Personally, I thought the artwork was interesting to a degree, though some of it was a little too abstract for my tastes. They also seem confusing for Ib as well in some cases- she actually can’t read the titles of some properly, as she’s only nine years old.
In any case, after she goes up to the second floor, she soon finds herself in front of a massive painting that takes up an entire room. The music stops, and when Ib tries to read the title of the painting(which appears to her to be “??? World”), the lights flicker strangely. When she leaves the room, all of the others admiring the paintings are gone, the music is gone, and strange sounds seem to come from the walls.
If she tries to leave, the doors and windows are locked. A shadowy figure bangs on one window if she gets close, and another leaks blood. More than that, a couple of paintings seem to be moving, and, returning to the “??? World” painting shows someone wrote a message for her, telling her they will show her “something secret” down below. As if that weren’t clear, then the words “COME IB” appear in large red letters on the floor.
Clearly, something supernatural is going on, and it wants her. Upon returning to the large painting on the floor of a giant sea creature, Ib would see the railing that normally keeps her away from it is gone, and stepping on the painting takes her to some sort of lower area via stairs. This in turn leads to two branching pathways- and going down either will make the stairs vanish, with no way back up.
Going left leads to a locked door, but going right leads to a vase with a red rose. It blocks the doorway behind it, so you have no choice but to take the rose and move the table it is on. This rose is actually vital, as it is your life. Every bit of damage Ib would take causes a rose to fall, and if all of them are gone, she will die. Whatever lead you here doesn’t seem to like her taking it either, because as soon as you come back out of the new room with your key, the word “THIEF” has been plastered on the wall. But in any case, now you can move on.
This leads to the first of many different areas in this strange and dangerous world of paintings, where mannequins chase you, hands reach out of the walls to grab you, and many other things that no girl should have to face. Obviously, Ib is no fighter, so the only thing you can do is avoid danger as best you can while figuring out how to progress further. Sometimes the paintings themselves or messages give clues, but for the most part you are on your own.
This leads me to another interesting concept- the gallery isn’t wholly malicious. Some of the paintings and exhibits will attack you, yes, but not all. In fact, early on there is a room called the ‘The Liars’ Room’ where all of the paintings give you false advice, but one will tell the truth. If you follow that one’s advice you will get a close to progress… but no sooner do you that horrible noises come from the Liar room, and when you return there you will see that the truth-teller’s painting has been ripped and bloodied, while all the others are holding knives. That painting died because they tried to help Ib! …Or possibly just because it told the truth in a room of liars. Either way, obviously horrible.
So while the entire gallery certainly doesn’t have a thirst for her blood, those that would harm her seem to be in the majority, and it certainly isn’t safe. Luckily, she doesn’t have to go through entirely alone. Early on, she runs into a man laying on the ground. She can’t move him, but he is holding a key. That key takes her to another room where one of the ladies that come out of the paintings is playing with a blue rose, ripping off pedals.
On seeing Ib of course she will chase her instead, but she manages to evade the creature by going outside- forcing the woman to break out of the window, as they cannot open doors- and then go back in to grab what is left of the man’s rose. After dipping it in a vase to restore its petals, she returns to the man, who has entirely recovered.
The man, named Garry, has no more of an idea why they are stuck here than Ib, but he resolves to help Ib while they try to find a way out. Though he is much more jumpy and easily frightened than the stoic Ib, he is nevertheless an adult, and quickly proves himself to be very helpful. Firstly, he can read the words that Ib doesn’t understand, which lets you find out the names of the paintings she wouldn’t comprehend otherwise, and read books you run into. Second, as a fully grown adult he has much more strength than Ib does and can push aside statues that bar your way.
Third, he does give the player something of a reprieve. Whereas before the gallery is silent, since Ib does not talk, Garry does, which is something of a relief. It is comforting to have someone commenting on the strange, bizarre, or even beautiful things that inhabit the gallery, because it dispels the loneliness that the game had been imposing until then. With him for company, the gallery doesn’t seem quite as creepy.
As Ib and Garry traverse the gallery, they eventually come to a room containing a solitary painting called “Seperation”. While they examine it, the lights cut out, and Garry attempts to use his lighter to see by. This prompts an inhuman screech and the lights cut back on- showing words covering the room, begging him not to use it, which the words seem to think would be murder. This says that, essentially, the paintings, while supernatural, are still just that, and could indeed be burned and destroyed.
In fact, over the course of the game, based on your actions, the gallery itself will come to resent Garry. He finds one of the mannequin heads earlier and attempts to kick it. Ib can intervene, but if he does, the heads will appear more frequently, watching him. After that and the lighter scene, the next time you look in a mirror it will show Garry’s face blacked out- the gallery expressing how it wants to be rid of him. If he continues to do things like this, it’s no surprise that the gallery will indeed ensure his death.
Moving on, after the lighter scene, they go to a new room, and a girl runs straight into Ib. This little girl also seems to be lost, and Garry of course decides to watch over them both from here on. Her name is Mary, and, despite the seriousness of the situation, she seems to be bubbly and cheerful. She also seems to disregard Garry for the most part, focusing entirely on Ib.
The new trio comes to another room, this one being oddly peaceful looking compared to the others- it has a giant painting of a bunny, with smaller ones lined up on tables at the walls. Mary finds them cute, while Garry seems oddly disturbed. Ib could go either way, but I found it cute. After getting a key from that room, they head back out, only for vines to appear out of a painting as they cross, creating a barrier between Garry and the two girls.
They decide the two should go on to the next room and see if there’s anything to free Garry with inside, but it seems there is not, though Mary does find a knife there- and before they can leave, a statue moves to block the way back, truly separating them from Garry completely. From this point on, the player will have to switch between controlling Ib and Garry, in different locations, to solve the coming puzzles. I thought this was quite an interesting contrast after Garry basically being Ib’s support all this time, and in fact let’s the player see some interesting things now that the three are separated.
First, Garry has to go back to the bunny room- only to him they are not bunnies, but terrifying looking red eyed dolls, all staring at him. One of the books in the room also talk about hallucinations, meaning Ib was seeing imagined bunnies, while Garry was seeing what the room truly looked like. One could assume Mary was also hallucinating- after all, why would she find these creepy dolls cute?
While Garry is finding his own way forward through the doll room, Ib and Mary continue going in their own direction, and arrive at a long empty corridor. While they are there, Mary asks Ib some interesting questions. First, she asks if Garry is Ib’s father. As always you can pick what she will say, but in this case both answers mean no.
Mary seems relieved to hear it, and then asks that, if Ib had to choose who she could leave this place with, Garry or Mary, who would she pick? I don’t know what Ib would say herself, but I imagine it would be a difficult question to say the least- and it would make you wonder why she asked. Personally, I would pick Mary. Not that I dislike Garry at all, but… well, Mary just seems like someone I’d want to protect, in a way, and take care of. I suppose that is a Garry-ish reaction. But anyway.
On Garry’s end, he has to go down a hallway as well, and one of the dolls from before seems to be following him. It cannot communicate verbally, but it can make messages on the wall for him to read. It tells him that it doesn’t like being alone, and wants him to take it with him. There’s no option to do so, probably because Garry really doesn’t like the gallery or anything in it, much less creepy talking dolls that probably are trying to trick him.
It reappears with a new message every time Garry leaves it behind offscreen. It at first is surprised that he didn’t take it with him, then asks why he is ignoring it, if he hates it. Then it tries to convince him not to ignore it, that it knows lots of games they can play, friends it can introduce him to. None of this sways Garry, so it finally just says “Be here forever…” and moves in front of the door out. Garry finally responds, and tells it that he won’t be it’s friend, and he wants it out of the way. You then have the option of either moving it out of the way, or kicking it out of the way. Needlesstosay, the dolls and the gallery itself won’t appreciate the latter option.
As Ib and Garry keep going, the puzzles become something they need to work together to solve, though plot-wise they of course don’t realize that- for instance, Garry can’t move on past a certain point until Ib drops something down a hole he can use to activate the next door. Something Ib is doing will open the way to Garry, and something he is doing will do the same for Ib, until eventually their paths collide again.
However, before this can happen, Garry discovers something secret. He discovers in one bookcase a list of some of Guertena’s works, and listed under M is… Mary. An exact likeness of her. Garry quickly pulls the facts together; Mary isn’t really a human, but another painting that just happens to look exactly like one.
Unfortunately for him, one of the paintings in the room, an ear, knows that he found out, and the paintings relay this information back to Mary. If you switch back to Ib at this point, Mary will have a very averse reason to this, acting strange. She doesn’t harm Ib, thankfully, but she does start acting very strangely, taking out her anger at Garry on one of the mannequin heads by stabbing it repeatedly, and wondering the room aimlessly after talking to Ib for a bit about very random things. However, this could be potentially avoided if you do not switch back to Ib and certain events take place, which I’ll go over now.
Garry has to enter another room to get an object to progress, and the dolls there will try to capture him, summoning a much larger doll out of a painting. If they fail, Garry will flee the room and head upstairs to where Ib and Mary are, prompting the game to switch you back to Ib, where Mary will have her freak out. If they succeed, on the other hand, Mary will not react to the news, and you will still be able to progress, as Garry had already ensured Ib could get the next key.
If Ib tries to read the entry on Mary, it will instead be replaced by “Marvelous Night”, another painting. As they approach the doll room, they’ll see Garry conversing happily with what seems to be bunnies, oblivious to the two girls. Since he keeps talking to himself, Mary suggests it may be some sort of fake Garry. Ib, however, disagrees, and tries to slap Garry back to his senses.
This works, much to my amusement, though it should be noted the game has several endings, and, if the criteria for two of the bad endings are met, he won’t snap out of it at all. If he stays snapped, Ib won’t take it well herself, and refuses to leave his side. This in turn leads to one of two endings- one where Mary decides to stay in the world of paintings with them, which would be incredibly sweet of her- if it weren’t for the fact that they’re not in their right minds, and are possibly dying or dead, it’s hard to tell in that last scene.
The second ending is where Mary decides to leave them both behind and go on to the real world without them. However, as she hinted herself earlier, she does need someone to die in her place for her to leave herself, as she isn’t ‘real’. The consequences of her going out without paying that price is that she will be destroyed herself.
Sad endings aside, whether Garry succeeds at the puzzle or not, all three meet up on the stairs between their two locations. If Garry didn’t get captured by the dolls, he well remembers what Mary is and tries to save Ib from her, knocking Mary out. If he is captured, he has forgotten, but Mary accidentally drops her rose, and, when Garry picks it up, she freaks out and pulls out her knife. He pushes her away, which also knocks her out, jogging his memory of her true nature.
Either way, Mary is unconscious, and the two have to proceed without her, much to my regret. They proceed down to a new area, called the Sketchbook. It appears to be some sort of realm created from child-like scribbles and crayon drawings, rather than an actual part of the gallery. Given Mary’s desire to leave the gallery and see the real world, she likely made it herself to try and create something like the world in the gallery… but her own art skills don’t seem quite up to the task.
Regardless, Ib and Garry need a key there to leave this area and finally get back to the real world. The key is inside the Toy Box, locked in one of the drawn houses. Once they find it, Mary pushes them down in it. This push separates Ib from Garry, and her rose.
Depending on which ending you are heading for, there will be one of two events here. If you see rose petals scattered around, then Ib will find both Garry and her rose here, and then the key, and head on your way, escaping the creatures in the box. If you see no rose petals, you will find the key and Garry, but Mary will have taken Ib’s rose, with the help of one of the dolls.
Garry pleads with her to give back Ib’s rose, but Mary instead offers a trade- Garry’s blue rose for Ib’s red one. He reluctantly agrees, and Mary runs off. Ib and Garry follow, but Mary has already started plucking Garry’s petals, slowly killing him. He eventually tells Ib to go on without him, that he’ll catch up later. However, by the time you reach where Mary is, she will have already pulled off the last petal, ensuring she can leave and killing Garry.
On the other hand, if you managed to find Ib’s rose, no trade will occur, and Ib and Garry can leave with the key. Note that Ib’s rose, in either case, will only have one petal left. As they go upstairs, they will see an area blocked off by vines, which Garry feels they must investigate. Using his lighter, he burns through the vines and heads inside. This, it turns out, is Mary’s room. Shoved up near the end some drawings, a book, and various other belongings, but most importantly an empty frame- the one Mary came out of.
You can also visit this room by grabbing Garry’s lighter if he died, but… well, you’ll see. Entering the room will prompt Mary to realize someone is there and barge in. Seeing you so close to her painting, she becomes enraged and pulls out her knife. You cannot leave the room now, and she will chase you until she catches you, killing you. The only recourse is to use the lighter on Mary’s portrait, destroying her.
From there, nothing will get in your way. With the key you got from the Toy Box, you can leave and escape back to the real world. Why you just had to go in that room I don’t fathom, but whatever. I’m not bitter at all.
Depending on how well Ib and Garry connected throughout the game, you’ll get one of two endings after Mary’s unfortunate and needless demise. If they haven’t connected well, you will get the “Memories Crannies” ending, where neither of them remember what happened, and go on with their lives. If they did bond, however, then you will get the “Promise of Reunion” ending, where they do remember what happened and each other, becoming true friends. Which is sweet.
Somewhat more interesting to me though is another ending- what happens if Mary gets Garry’s rose. From that point on you have two choices- to go back and get Garry’s lighter and kill Mary, or to proceed. While I certainly don’t like what happened to Mary, I can kind of understand Ib might want to get back at her once she realized what happened to Garry. This leads to the “Forgotten Protrait” ending, where Ib returns with no memories of what happened, and there is a new painting on display of Garry himself. Ib doesn’t seem to remember him, but the painting did seem familiar to her.
Much more cheerful though, is the ending where Ib leaves, and Mary does as well. As she leaves, she does not remember what happened, but as she comes back to her parents, Mary is there as well, having apparently not only come into the real world, but everyone seems to think she is Ib’s sister, Ib included. They leave the gallery, and you get the “Together Forever” ending. Personally, I’m not a fan of memories being tampered with, but… well, for Mary, I’ll let it slide.
You might be wondering why I have such a soft spot for her. Well… imagine that you’re Mary. You were created by a long dead painter, and you’re stuck in this world where there are no other people. Sure, some of the paintings are sentient, but it’s obviously much smaller than the real world and I’d wager after the novelty wears off even someone who is perfectly safe there might want to leave. Especially Mary, because she is aware of some things outside of the gallery, like trees and flowers, that she would never truly see. Plus, she knows people come into the gallery, and would have to be wondering where they go when they leave. Anyone would be driven to find out if they have an inkling of curiosity.
Plus, while she is happy to leave, she doesn’t take any joy in Garry’s death. She might consider him competition, but there’s nothing to suggest she dislikes him in any personal way. It’s simply the fact that either she leaves or he does- there is no way around it, sadly.
I do like Garry, but another thing that makes it hard for me to want him to leave over Mary is that, quite simply, she’s adorable. And more seriously, the gallery itself seems to be out to get him. Mary isn’t solely in control of the gallery- if anything, she’s just one of it’s inhabitants. The entire place seems to be alive to a degree, and it does not seem to like Garry for whatever reason.
He likely had a much harder time than Ib did at first, given his rose is captured and nearly destroyed by a painting, while Ib was able to escape anything she ran into up to that point. Assuming Mary didn’t cause those vines to appear and separate Garry from the two girls, the painting must have done it itself. One of the dolls was interested and wanted to keep Garry in the gallery, even if that meant leading him into its lair and driving him insane.
Lastly, after you beat the game once there is a bonus area you can enter, which has a message for you as you go in. If Ib is alone, it will tell her to “Remember the artworks you hold dear”, a somewhat kind message. If Garry is with you, however, it will tell him to “Drown in the abyss”. For whatever reason, this place simply does not like him, and wants him dead. Which also means the gallery itself wanted Ib to come into it, for whatever reason… a scary thought.
But back to the subject of Garry, one can only speculate why the gallery hates him, but there is one theory I heard- the paintings and the gallery itself are alive because Guertena poured his spirit into them. The gallery, accordingly, would prefer women- most of his paintings are either abstract, female, or genderless, with only two distinctly male ones- one is the “The Hanged Man”, fairly self-explanatory, and the other is “The Fisherman”, who appears to be a stick figure in the painting, and vanishes from it shortly after he arrives, minimizing his impact and time visible.
In any case, back to that bonus area I mentioned, it’s essentially a secret area with new paintings and puzzles, and if you manage to get through it you’ll get a black key. This key isn’t used normally, but after you get it, anytime you beat the game you can choose to use it to visit the True Guertena Exhibit, where every painting Ib has seen throughout her various playthroughs will appear. It really is a great reward in my opinion, especially since Mary, Garry, and Ib’s parents appear in it after certain endings are met.
But anyway, I’ve rambled enough. I really, really do love this game, sad though it may be in places, and I would encourage everyone to give it a try. It’s free to download, and I promise you, it is well worth the time. Enjoy, dear readers, and I’ll see you next time.