Review: The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

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The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is the type of game you just have to love. What originated as a graduate thesis project for a pair of students a couple years back has now become a full-blown Xbox Live Arcade release, and from the moment you pick up the controller and start playing you can feel the passion and creativity that went into its development.

Created by budding indie game studio The Odd Gentlemen – formed by graduated students of USC’s Interactive Media MFA program, Matt Korba and Paul Bellezza — The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is a delightful time-bending puzzle platformer starring mischievous pie thief, P.B. Winterbottom. And I say delightful because the game’s black-and-white silent film style, poetic storytelling, old-timey music, and slapstick humor, which clearly invokes the spirit of Charlie Chaplin, will charm your socks off.

As the story goes, Mr. Winterbottom’s love for pie knows no boundaries, so he’ll do anything to sink his teeth into the delectable pastry he so fervently craves. For the sake of this game, he resorts to cloning himself in order to snatch up every pie in sight, and it’s up to you to command his pie-scarfing doppelgangers to achieve that goal.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom spans five chapters (or “movies”) and 51 stages (plus 25 “Bonus Shorts”), with each stage containing a smorgasbord of pies scattered about the screen that you must gobble up before moving on to the next stage. This is much easier said than done, though, as the pies always seem to be placed just out of poor ol’ Winterbottom’s reach and often require the use of some type of contraption or special stipulation to collect – some pies must be collected in a specific order and/or within a time limit, while others can only be activated (and then eaten) when P.B. has a spotlight shining on him.

But snatching pies is no easy task for just one man, so in each level you also have to clone P.B. and figure out how to use his duplicate selves to solve each pie-blocking conundrum. You can record clones to act as stepping stools to higher ledges or weights on the other side of seesaws; you can have them hit switches to hold open doors or activate spring launchers; or you can run them off a cliff into frigid waters to turn them into frozen blocks for P.B. to jump on. P.B.’s umbrella comes in handy quite often as well, as he can use it as a parachute to float across large platform gaps or as a stick to smack clones into the air with.

As you begin each chapter, you are also introduced to a new twist on the clone recording mechanic, such as portals limiting where you can record from and evil red clones that will kill the real P.B. if touched. This makes for a lot of puzzle diversity, and overall the levels and puzzles are really well thought out and are a joy to solve.

Reading around, it seems that the game’s difficulty has been called into question from all sides – some players say it is too easy, some say it is too hard, others say it is uneven. I can see where each side is coming from, but from my viewpoint the difficulty was balanced quite well. Each chapter seemed to start off with one or two simple levels easing me into the new control twist, and then from there the remaining puzzles would ramp up to showcase how to use the new mechanic in different ways, with one or two stages really leaving me stumped.

However, I will say that the game does seem to fly by awfully fast. Between the story chapters and the optional bonus shorts there are 76 stages in all. Those stages offer hours of puzzle-solving enjoyment, but because the game is so hard to put down you’ll have devoured the whole thing as ferociously as P.B. gobbles up pies, and once it’s over your stomach will surely be growling for more.

But that’s the mark of a great game, isn’t it? I would say so, absolutely. The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom may not sate your appetite for long, but it sure is scrumptious while it lasts. You will be hungry for more once it’s over, but still, it’s such a tasty morsel of puzzle gaming goodness that you just have to play it.

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Pros:
+ Charming story
+ Clever level designs
+ Diverse puzzle mechanics
+ Eye-catching silent film aesthetic

Cons:
– Leaves you wanting more

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360 via XBLA
Publisher: 2K Play
Developer: The Odd Gentlemen
Release Date: 2/17/2010
Genre: Puzzle/Platform
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!