The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom Review
Sometimes a game deserves some extra points on its final score simply for style. The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom scores its full allotment of style points and then some with its unique look, style, premise, and sense of humor. Puzzle games aren't really known for story or presentation, but don't tell the developers of Winterbottom that because I love the game's whimsical and whacky story and the way in which it is told.
P.B. Winterbottom is man obsessed with pies and nothing will stop him in his pursuit of getting his hands on every pie he sees. Winterbottom's obsession and the consequences of his pursuit of the object of his desires is told through rhyming couplets of text accompanied by whimsical and imaginative drawings; it's kind of like reading a book for children written by Tim Burton. These story drawings, and in fact the entire game, are rendered in black and white with an early Twentieth Century look and style. The occasional film scratch or other artifact that appears on screen gives the whole game a silent movie look and feel. It all works quite well, and there's not another game out there that I'm aware of that looks anything like it.
Presentation is a big part of the gaming experience, but when you get down to it it's the gameplay that really matters, so let's take a look at the gameplay in Winterbottom. As you may have already guessed, the goal of each level in the game is to collect all of the pies on the level. While the goal may be simple, accomplishing that goal is always far from simple. However, P. B. Winterbottom possesses a rather unique talent that makes it possible to get to pies that are seemingly impossibly out of reach. Holding the right trigger begins a recording, and all of your actions will be recorded until you release the trigger. Once the trigger is released a clone will be created who will perform the recorded actions over and again in an endless loop. These actions can range from the very simple act of standing in one spot so that you can hop on your clone's head to a complex series of actions that has your clone hitting switches and grabbing pies for you while you're doing the same on another part of the level. Each level has a maximum number of clones that you can create at a single time, and more often than not you'll need all of those clones to be playing their part all at once in order to get all of the pies on a level.. If by chance you own a PS3 in addition to your Xbox 360 and have played Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, then the mechanics of the game will be familiar to you as they are similar to the time-based puzzles faced by Clank in that game.
There are a limited number of actions available in the game – Winterbottom can jump, swing an umbrella to hit a switch or launch a clone into the air, or open his umbrella in midair to glide for a short distance – but they will need to be employed in a number of creative ways to make it past the game's 51 puzzles, some of which can be quite challenging. Most of the puzzles will require some thought and once you have the solution it will often require tight timing with little margin for error. The game's uneven puzzle difficulty is probably its biggest drawback, as some of them are flat-out fiendish. Unfortunately there's no in-game hint mechanism and the game's puzzles are unlocked in a strictly linear manner, so when you're stuck, you're really stuck, and the entire game comes to a screeching halt. Some players may become frustrated and give up on the game at some point, which is a shame because the next couple of puzzles past the roadblock might be a lot easier.
In addition to the game's 51 puzzles that are part of its main mode, there are a small collection of challenge levels. These levels are filled with pies and the goal is to collect them all in as short a time as possible, with a bonus for using as few clones as possible. There levels are designed to be open-ended in the sense that there are a large number of possible solutions to collecting all of the pies, so they're fun to play around with, experiment with different solutions, and try and beat your best time. These levels also have online leaderboards so you can see how other gamers have done, both in the time it took them to solve the puzzle and how many clones they needed to finish it.
Overall, The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom is a rather unique game, both in terms of look and gameplay, and fans of puzzle games are encouraged to give it a try. The uneven difficulty is a problem, so you'll need to have the patience to spend some time working your way through the difficult puzzles.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 88%. A challenging puzzle game hidden beneath a whimsical and lighthearted façade.