Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

P.B. Winterbottom is a man with a great appetite for pie. He's obsessed with it, it's all he thinks about, and it is always the object of all his pursuits. This time, Mr. Winterbottom's desire for pie has gotten him in a bit of trouble.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is the first game by a small development company called The Odd Gentlemen, and they introduce themselves to the world with a bang. They've brought us a simple, but incredibly entertaining Xbox Live Arcade game that will provide tons of entertainment for the small price tag of only 800 Microsoft points.

The main story in P.B. Winterbottom has P.B. on a quest chasing a giant magical pie. Along the way he is, of course, gathering many normal sized pies to keep his appetite at bay... a man's gotta eat. The music is incredibly catchy and fun. The art style is amazing, and the game play mechanics work very well. I loved the way the story was played out in the form of a poem, of which more was revealed to you between each level. That same storytelling "voice" is used to insult "Winterbritches the Crudstache" throughout the game with witty insults at the bottom of the screen. Also, if you played Braid, some of the mechanics are the same, but Winterbottom really lacks that stick-a-gun-barrel-in-your-mouth vibe. It's a nice touch. Also, if you haven't gathered this yet, the story is simple: Motherfucker loves pie.

The main game mechanic is the ability to create clones of yourself that could be used for a wide variety of things such as place holders or climbing platforms. You can also use an umbrella to float to the ground slowly, or to whack clones into far off pies. You can also set up "whacking" clones that can toss you across the screen. Initially you create clones by recording yourself performing an action by holding down RT. Once you release it, P.B. takes a bow for his performance and a clone is created that runs in a loop until being deleted by pressing Y, he's destroyed by an obstacle in the world, or you interact with him by whacking him or launching him from a see-saw. Initially there is no time limit to your recordings, but that changes as you progress to later puzzles. You'll run into clones who can only be spawned from one point and start their playback simultaneously. This forces you to create clones in stages that will eventually get you to your goal. You also run into evil clones that are dangerous to the touch.

All of this cloning is done in an effort to ingest every pie on a given level. At first you are given pies that can be consumed by you or your clones, allowing you to set them off on collection tasks while you do the same. Later you will run into blue pies which can only be eaten by your clones, red pies that can only be eaten by your evil clones, and attention-whore transparent pies that need the spotlight on them before you're able to partake in their delicious wares. The latter involves a type of "infection" style play where you can pass the spotlight from yourself to your clones in an effort to light up and collect every pie. Several of the puzzles later in the game are challenging, and there is a definite sense of reward upon completing them. The game's story is broken up into five different movie levels and each one introduces a new cloning mechanic or pie collection method. The game does a good job of initially easing you into the new mechanic, and then quickly ramps up the difficulty once you get the hang of things.

In addition to the game proper, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom also offers challenge levels which give you a recording goal as well as a time goal. Sometimes these can be accomplished simultaneously, others it's advantageous to work out one and then the other. I often found myself first figuring out how to clear the room with the allotted number of recordings (or less!), and then coming back and going recording crazy to beat the time challenges.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is a fun and unique experience. Even if you played something like Braid, this game stands apart with its art style and music (which I can't express my enjoyment of enough). Plus, I felt like I had a lot more control over the cloning mechanic in this game than I ever did with Braid. It just felt like the whole thing had a lot more polish. In addition, the challenge rooms offer a lot more game play and more puzzle solving to keep your mind sharp without the story.

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