Game Over Online ~ The Midadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

GameOver Game Reviews - The Midadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (c) 2K Games, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher The Midadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (c) 2K Games
System Requirements Xbox 360
Overall Rating 85%
Date Published Thursday, April 1st, 2010 at 08:13 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

If you do not immediately start tapping your feet to the opening music in The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, you're off my Christmas card list. It's this great, jaunty barrelhouse piano theme that made me play further into the game just to keep listening to it, and kept me from getting frustrated for as long as it persisted. If nothing else, that's the takeaway point here: this game has great music.

P.B. Winterbottom is kind of like playing a Shel Silverstein book. (It's not quite consistently morbid enough to be a Gashlycrumb Tiny, but sometimes it gets there.) As quasi-Victorian pie thief Winterbottom, you gain a variety of powers that have to do with time travel. You use these powers to run off with larger and better numbers of pies, in a series of increasingly ridiculous circumstances. Just about anyone with a functioning forebrain can clear the first ten levels, but after that, the game gets extremely difficult.

For most of the game, Winterbottom's powers involve recording himself. You can produce a clone at any time by holding down the right trigger, and it'll do exactly what you were doing during the time you were recording its actions, unless it's killed or otherwise prevented from doing so. This allows you to activate switches, bounce on seesaws, or set up a clone buddy to punt you into the horizon. Later levels allow you to create stable time loops using handy portals, and one puzzle actually involves running and jumping to victory off of the frozen corpses of your past incarnations.

One of the oddest things about Winterbottom's stage design is that it takes everything into account eventually. One stage's solution involves deliberately disrupting a clone's pattern, so it stands perfectly still for the remainder of its circuit. Another requires you to "kill" the main Winterbottom by leaping into a fire, thus teleporting you back to the beginning of the stage and allowing you to reactivate a switch, clearing the way for your clone. It's rare that you see a puzzle game that requires you to pay attention not only to the limitations of your character's abilities, but actually asks you to remember what it looks like when you screw up and use it.

As a result, this is a tough game. Starting near the end of the second world, it takes the gloves off. You'll have a hard time figuring out what you're even supposed to do at times, let alone how you're supposed to do it.

My biggest complaint about the game is that too many of the harder stages come down to very precise timing or reflexes rather than actual puzzling. Winterbottom is occasionally less of a puzzle game and more of an extremely challenging platformer, particularly in the second and third worlds when you only have one clone to work with. These are, not coincidentally, the most frustrating and least rewarding stages in the game.

The production values on Winterbottom are pretty high, it's a fun game to just sit and look at, and the little bits of art and writing that join each stage are at least as good as a solid children's book. This would be a great game for a kid, especially if they're young enough that they'll just hammer through the tougher levels until they beat them. The sudden occasional shift from outthinking a stage to outrunning it is my biggest problem with Winterbottom, though, and while it's not a dealbreaker, it's something you should consider before picking it up.


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