If you’ve been craving a game that involves old films, pies, time travel and clones, then you’re in luck. The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is here to whet your unique, and slightly disturbing appetite. It’s just another shining example of the kinds of great games you can find on the olde Xbox Live Arcade.
From the moment I started playing I had no idea what the hell was going on. You’re transported to the land of the black and white silent film where top hats reign supreme, guiding P.B Winterbottom across a bizarre landscape. Fortunately after teaching you the basic mechanics, the levels start to make a bit more sense, and you can actually see what you’re supposed to do. Winterbottom likes pies, fair enough I guess, as do I and I’m sure you do too young reader. But this guy really loves them, so much so that he’s willing to travel through time and create clones of himself to help him achieve his twisted needs. Each level is separated with rhyming title cards that tell some sort of narrative; either that or the raving thoughts of a psych-ward patient, who knows. All that I know for sure is that Winterbottom’s whole life purpose is to chase a giant flying pie.
Once you’re done with the first few levels you’ll find yourself in a room with movie posters. The level theatre is basically the level select of the game where you play “movie levels”, and the first thing it reminded me of (not to mention most of the game itself) was Braid. Though it doesn’t take a pie-on-the-brain-genius to figure that out.
Each level usually requires you to collect all the pies. This is made difficult by them being too hard to reach, or with hazards in your way such as fire or water, or some pies that can only be eaten by clones. Most levels show the whole puzzle onscreen but there are a few scrolling ones from time to time. Clones are created by holding down the record button, and you can only have as many copies as the level allows. They will then perform the series of actions you just performed, looping over and over. This is usually pulling a switch, jumping, gliding, hitting, or just standing still. You can also jump on top of a clone’s head to get to higher places or try hitting a clone into the air, which solves a lot of the “bonus shorts” puzzles.
The “bonus shorts” are basically time trials, with leaderboards and all the rest. These are a lot easier than the normal puzzle levels but they’re quite open in how you get all the pies, and there’s a lot more of them too. I don’t see myself competing score wise but they were a fun diversion, not too difficult to finish anyhow.
Later on you’ll run into time portals. These levels remove your usual method of creating clones and instead you’re tasked with recording them only from the portals. Also at the end of recording you’ll be rewound to the starting point where all the previous clones will restart at the same time. Some levels have a limit of up to 15 clones and it gets a little crazy! Then there’s the red portals who’s job it is to make your life miserable by creating evil versions of P.B. Winterbottom. Which means you must avoid running into your clones at all cost for fear of killing yourself – I mean you, not your clone. You know what I mean!
The soundtrack is pre-tty spooky throughout, and along with the general weirdness gives you that slight uncomfortable feeling while playing. As for the style, the music goes hand in hand with the setting; clocks and industrial factories seem to play a bit of a theme. Though it’s not always black and white, there are a few touches of colour here and there. And it is really nice to play something that looks a bit different to the rest of the crowd.
The game does break the fourth wall at points by addressing the player and subtitles that go and reference their own existence or insult you. Even most of the levels are named after movies, TV shows, games and just general sayings. Parodied of course, here’s a few gems:
– Baked to the Future
– Buffet Runner
– Citizen Clone
– A Clone in the Dark
– Dissected Development
Bonus points if you know all five!
The platforming means it’s more open than your typical puzzle game and there‘s often alternate solutions. Yet sometimes I felt that I was playing against the game, perhaps not doing it the way they wanted because of the very strict timing in place, trying to make it from one side of the level to the other to pull a switch. Difficulty is all over the place. Most of the levels aren’t too bad while others are incredibly frustrating.
For instance, the last level, a pain in my backside that nearly tainted what I thought of the entire game. I made it all the way through every level only to run into this brick wall. I must’ve spent at least a couple hours on it, adding a few breaks in between of course where I couldn’t possibly pick up the controller again. With a hint from Gaming God Wugga and watching a friend muck around, I eventually realised the solution. I really don’t know what it was that made that level so hard for me, I guess it shows how we all think differently!
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is incredibly distinctive and if you play it in front of people you’re sure to get a few weird looks. If you’ve been itching for another puzzle game like Braid, Winterbottom might be your man. It’s probably not as hard as Braid but it’s still a mighty challenge. It really is a great title so go download it if this puzzle-platformer sounds like your idea of a good time.
Released on 17/02/10 for 800 MS Points.