Developer: The Odd Gentlemen / Publisher: 2K Play / ESRB: Everyone (Comic Mischief) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $10.00
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is the newest puzzle-adventure title to hit XBLA and what an exciting, bite-sized game it is. It has loads of personality, catchy music and even tons of delicious-looking floating pies…who needs anything more? If you enjoyed Braid or other platform-style puzzle games, then P.B. Winterbottom is a title you definitely want to sink your teeth into.
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is as much a visual treat as it is a brain-teaser of a puzzle game. The silent film-era look – complete with washed-out black and whites, old-timey costumes and environments, and a touch of film grain – is out of place in today’s world of HD this and 3D that. Yet this distinct aesthetic charm is what makes the game so memorable. It looks like an ancient cartoon from Victorian England has come to life.
The details are so important here, as they capture the essence of the time period. P.B. Winterbottom doesn’t carry a chainsaw gun; he smacks his clones with an umbrella. He doesn’t wear fatigues or body armor; he wears a gentleman’s suit, a tall top hat (that is as tall as he is), and a thick mustache. Wispy steam flows out of larger-than-life cartoon pies (the object of Winterbottom’s desires – and hunger). Strange backdrops like moonlit rooftops and underground sewers are made of disproportioned buildings and platforms. It’s all a little steampunk, a little old-fashioned, and so beautiful and memorable, you never want to wake up from this almost Tim Burton-esque world.
Are you prone to wildly throwing your controller when you get frustrated in a game? Then you better pad your TV because P.B. Winterbottom is pulling-your-hair-out difficult (but still incredibly fun). Each stage starts off looking innocent enough – some delicious pies are scattered about the level, and P.B. Winterbottom wants them. The problem is most of them are out of reach in some way, so you must create clones of yourself to help. By recording yourself doing various actions via the right trigger (running, jumping, standing…whatever), a new clone will appear duplicating those exact actions, which frees up the original you to do other things. As a simple example, imagine one pie that’s just too high up for Winterbottom to reach. To get to it, just record yourself standing underneath it, then when the clone appears in that spot, the real you can jump on him as if he were a new platform. There, one pie down….
Each chapter gets harder and harder as you go on– so hard that you will be scrambling to check out walkthrough videos on YouTube before you know it. I will be honest — YouTube saved my sanity many times during my playthrough of Winterbottom. The puzzles are just so devious, especially later on (think time limits, multiple clones, fire and water hazards, pressure-sensitive switches, and other obstacles). When you finally do figure out how to complete a level without a video FAQ, however, it will probably be one of the most satisfying and natural highs you have gotten from a game in a long time.
The music in this XBLA gem is one of my favorite parts of the game. Like the graphics, the music adds so much personality to the title. The tunes are dark and even creepy, yet still catchy and fun. The piano riffs have a bit of whimsy to them. You could say they’re even reminiscent of the music of Danny Elfman – perfect for the Tim Burton vibe I mentioned earlier. You will be hearing the music play over and over in your head when you try to go to sleep, but you will never get tired of hearing it.
The controls are pretty simple: run, jump, swing an umbrella (to launch other bodies to otherwise unreachable areas) and record to create a clone. Clones match the movements that you make while in record mode, so you can make them do all sorts of things like hit you over a gap, jump on a button, flip a switch, etc. It’s not the controls that you will be fighting with in Winterbottom, it’s your own ability to figure out how to get through each level.
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is a must-buy for any puzzle game fan. If you thought Braid was a once-in-a-lifetime find, then think again, because Winterbottom delivers an equally fascinating world, strange visuals and unique and creative gameplay that you will find difficult yet oh so addicting.