The easiest way to describe The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom would be to call it World 5 of Braid – low-hanging fruit for sure, but apt nevertheless. In Braid, “infinite time potion” allowed Tim to tackle several time-manipulating puzzles. World 5 featured a shadow version of Tim, a copy that would repeat his actions and allow him to be two places at once. Winterbottom takes this concept, one of many offered in Braid, and makes an entire game out of it. But don’t call if a rip-off – the concept is taken to an extreme that transcends any Braid-wannabe status Winterbottom may garner.
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is the tale of a large-nosed, top-hatted gentleman on a quest for pie. This is already absurd, but it gets worse when Winterbottom gains the power to record and duplicate himself. Among the standard 2D-platformer mechanics of running and jumping, the recording mechanic offers a ton of possibilities for mind-melting puzzles. If you’ve played Braid, you’ll have a leg-up on the earlier challenges, but Winterbottom quickly delves into fresh territory.
It’d be a criminal act to spoil the details of Winterbottom’s puzzles, but consider this teaser: You’ll eventually navigate an army of doppelgangers over chasms and falling platforms, with all your copies bounding off of each other in a beautiful acrobatic ballet. And it’s absolutely as awesome as it sounds.
Winterbottom’s 50-level story mode is complemented with an additional 25 time trials. It’s a lot of great content for the asking price, though the amount of time it takes to finish will vary wildly from player to player. The puzzles are tough, and often require several minutes of experimentation. But when you do solve them, that “A-HA!” moment is incredibly rewarding. Winterbottom does not condescend to its audience like so many modern games – it makes you feel intelligent.
That smart design is topped off with some great style. Black and white, Victorian-era backdrops cast a mischievious shadow over the light-hearted tale. The story is told in rhyme through silent-film-esque title cards. A mix of Ragtime and clockwork jingles make for an upbeat and unforgettable soundtrack. Each of these elements come together to create a refreshing and unique world that’s a joy to traverse. The only hitch is Winterbottom himself – his polygonal model doesn’t mesh well with the hand-drawn look of the rest of the game. The result is reminiscent of later 16-bit games like Donkey Kong Country where smoothly animated characters feel removed from their static world.
That single visual snafu aside, Winterbottom is a nearly perfect little game. It aspires to be everything you could hope for in a downloadable game: intelligent, artistic, charming, and polished. It nails each of these, placing itself alongside the very best puzzle-platformers this generation has to offer.