The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-02-28 Xbox 360 Puzzle E (Everyone) The Odd Gentlemen / 2K Play

To put it simply, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is a delightful game. From the clever story and unique puzzle gameplay to the charming art style, the game screams of forethought and attention to detail.

The game's title character, Englishman P.B. Winterbottom, loves pies. Nay, is obsessed with them! So much in fact, that he steals all he can get his hungry fingers on. His greed for the tasty pastry lands Winterbottom in the middle of a (mis)adventure of deliciously epic proportions, traveling through a portal to the past, where Winterbottom can relive his previous bouts of pie thievery all over again.

After the introduction, the rest of the game's story plays out through each level's loading screen, and is full of witty one liners and genuine humor that adds just as much entertainment value to the experience as the gameplay itself.

Each level gives you a single goal - collect all of the pies - but this is a process that is far easier said than done. The first ten or so levels serve as a sort of loose tutorial, with the game introducing you to the basic controls and the clone system.

Winterbottom can, of course, jump over gaps and even glide from platform to platform using his umbrella, but those two actions will only get you so far in the long run, due to the fact that, at the beginning of each level, the pies are mere shadows, and aren't collectible until you step on a switch, bringing them to life (but then only for a short period of time).

Winterbottom can create clones of himself, that, as proper clones should, can perform all of the same actions as the original character. By holding down the right trigger, you begin the recording process (while this may be a loose comparison, if you've played Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, this is an incredibly similar process), as the game will record all of your actions and replay them on a loop after you release the trigger.

Beginning levels will only allow you one or two clones, while later levels will see a whole herd of Winterbottoms running this way and that, jumping over platforms and pressing switches to enable the other clones to do their jobs. It's in this way that an incredible amount of strategy comes into play. While there's typically more than just a single "solution" to every level; that is, how to get clones to the top of high platforms, press buttons and remove obstacles synchronously (all while collecting pies, of course), figuring out the order in which to activate clones, how much time to wait before starting your movements, or how to stop one clone from impeding the progress of another is quite the task.

That being said, it would be a safe generalization to say that the challenge doesn't really kick in until around level 20, when you'll begin to have to take a few moments to plan out your movements before ever recording your first clone. For some, the challenge will start sooner or even later, leaving you to think of past experiences with such puzzle-solving games to figure out whether or not you'd enjoy the mental challenge, or become frustrated over time.

After you've completed your run through the story mode (or even during, if you wish to take a break from your progress), you can replay each level as a timed event, which keeps track of how many clones and how much time it took you to collect all of the pies. There are leaderboards tracking the results of each level, but you'll have to do some incredibly fancy maneuvering to take on the best at the game.

Throughout it all, you'll be presented with a terrific art style. The game is primarily black and white, the pies standing out from the monochrome color scheme as a shade of peach, with the graphics containing a real feeling of depth (regardless of the game's side presentation) due to the layers of buildings, lampposts and other environmental phenomena that constitute the backgrounds. One especially nice element to the presentation comes in the form of the film-grain overlay that plays as you are recording your clones; it's one of many small details (like the clever naming of levels based on twists of novels or popular culture) that, in addition to the game's catchy instrumental soundtrack, really helps flesh out the experience.

All told, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom isn't a misadventure at all; it's an original and downright enjoyable journey that is worth every one of its 800 points price. The game offers real challenge for those who may be inexperienced with puzzle games, but the challenge is never so overwhelming as to make it a chore to push on, even if only to see what trouble Winterbottom can find himself in, in the next level. If puzzle games at all interest you, you owe it to yourself to give this one a chance.

Special thanks to Jim Redner and 2K for providing a copy of this game.