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The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (Xbox 360) artwork

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (Xbox 360) review


"The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom has plenty of personality. The black-and-white, grainy silent movie-look, the playful rhyming blurbs before each puzzle, and the eponymous protagonist who has a mighty obsession with pie--all of this combines well to create a charmingly distinct title, not just on the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace but on all platforms. It is more than that, though; it is also a puzzle game with some rather unique mechanics. "



The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom has plenty of personality. The black-and-white, grainy silent movie-look, the playful rhyming blurbs before each puzzle, and the eponymous protagonist who has a mighty obsession with pie--all of this combines well to create a charmingly distinct title, not just on the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace but on all platforms. It is more than that, though; it is also a puzzle game with some rather unique mechanics.

In P.B. Winterbottom's quest to capture and eat a specially mouthwatering yet seemingly unattainable pie, he goes through a series of fifty puzzles divided into five separate movie levels before the final confrontation. Winterbottom has to collect all the pies in each puzzle to progress. He can run, jump, glide with his umbrella, and smack stuff, but his invaluable weapon is the uncanny ability to clone himself. By holding down the right trigger, you can record what Winterbottom does in order to create a clone that replays his actions in an endless loop. The number of clones is limited to however many the specific puzzle allows.

Maybe he can't reach a platform that's just too high for him. No worries, create a standing clone and climb on him. Stack clones to get to even higher platforms. Maybe he can't jump over a pit of fire. Create a clone that smacks you across. These are all basic examples, but by the end of the game, you will be using his power much more inventively. This is primarily because each movie level comes with its own twist. For example, the second level forces you to collect all the pies within a short space of time after activating a switch. The third has pies that can only be taken by clones, while the fourth introduces red clones that cannot touch each other, requiring extra thought on the movement and positioning of your clones. In many of these puzzles, pies are also numbered and must be quickly taken in order. There is more than enough variety in the puzzles to make the game fresh throughout.

The main downfall of Winterbottom is its lack of difficulty. In my humble opinion, puzzle games need to pose some challenge. Other genres can get away with being easy because they have other strengths to play on, but if the individual puzzles were straightforward and didn't ask for much of my mind, I probably would not be fully satisfied upon completing them. Unfortunately, Winterbottom, despite having a few neat solutions towards the end (the "boss fight" was especially nicely done), has many that fall under this category. I was rarely stuck. There was only one that had me truly stumped for a while before I solved it, and though there were a few that made me ponder for a couple of minutes, none of the rest were that tricky. I finished the story within a few hours, not really proud that I made it to the end credits.

Winterbottom also comes with a set of bonus levels. Each of the fifteen extra puzzles has two challenges attached to it--a time challenge, where you have to finish the puzzle in a particular time, and a recording one, in which you cannot exceed a certain number of clones. These are even less taxing, though to their credit, they are much more open-ended and have numerous solutions to them. I'm sure the leaderboard aficionados out there will hunt for optimal paths and try to shave off seconds from their times. I remember finishing one puzzle in thirteen seconds, only to find that the best time did it in less than four. It seemed impossible until I rummaged through YouTube and found a far more effective way of collecting the pies in that puzzle.

But the leaderboard feature won’t make me come back for more, and I saw everything that was on offer and attained all 200 achievement points in five hours. It's hardly poor value for money at 800 MSP, but Braid, the most obvious game comparison, was worth 1,200 and took me just as long to finish, yet I felt a grander sense of accomplishment when I finally pieced together each jigsaw. I have no objection recommending Winterbottom if you enjoy puzzle games (it's certainly not bad when you consider that it originated from a student thesis). Its strongest attributes, the style of it and the heavy and humorous focus on pies, will ensure you won't forget about it too soon, but there are better alternatives like Braid and Portal on the Live marketplace.

Rating: 6/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (February 24, 2010)

Ben used to freelance for HonestGamers. Now he spends his spare time dying repeatedly on Spelunky.

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