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The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom Preview

By Joe Dodson, 9/14/2009

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One of the most charming games on display at PAX10 was The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom - a stylish puzzle game coming to Xbox Live Arcade sometime in the first quarter of 2010.

These misadventures are cooked with two main ingredients: pie and time. As P. B. Winterbottom himself, notorious pie bandit, you've disrupted the laws of time in your pursuit of all things cherry, apple and key lime. The result is a game that tasks you with pie collection, and arms you with time altering powers.In the version of the game I saw at PAX, most of the powers had to do with cloning Winterbottom. By pressing the right trigger, I could create a static clone of myself that I could then jump on top of to reach higher places. If I had three clones available, I could stack all three on top of one another, and climb them to reach great heights. I could also smack a clone with my umbrella and send it flying through the air. Any pies it touched became my pies. I could also record myself running to a certain location, or swinging my umbrella, and then have a clone repeat that action.

Each short level in the demo introduced one of these dynamics, and they all led to a final puzzle that incorporated several of them. This large puzzle was by far the best of the bunch, because it required me to engineer a device out of clones that would quickly collect all the pie in a room.

The room contained several floating lines of ghost pies. By stepping on a switch, they became real, but then I only had a few seconds to collect them all. So what I had to do was to strategically record two umbrella-swinging clones, and place them tactically, like the flippers on a pinball table. Then I had to make two static clones to each side of the switch. When I stepped on the switch and made the pies real, I quickly whacked the static clones on each side of me. They flew through the air, grabbing pies, and then were met by the bumper clones, who smacked them even higher, collecting the pies at the top of the screen.

It isn't the easiest process to describe, but the most important element is the "A-HA!" moment. When I was looking at the pies on the screen, I had one of those moments were suddenly I knew exactly how I needed to place my clones in order to get all the pie, and that realization was incredibly entertaining. I anticipate that The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom will be loaded with these epiphanies, making it one of the most intellectually stimulating Xbox Live Arcade games since Braid.

What I'm not sure about is the story. Clearly, The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom are portrayed in a storybook style, but exactly what arc these will take is unclear. Will the game just be about a man and his obsession with pie, or is there more under the crust? We'll all find out when the game ships sometime in the first quarter of 2010.



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