Bottom’s Up

If you want to get excited about games again, play The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom.

Update 2/22/21: Updated and removed broken links and images.

Lately I’ve been reading about games more than actually playing them, and it’s been easy to get discouraged by the number of discussions about interactive narrative or authorial control or “redefining the nature of ‘fun'” without seeing many concrete examples of an innovative game idea actually working.

So it’s great to see The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom turn the “experimental game” idea into something really fun and exciting. In concept, you solve puzzles using “clones” of your character that have been unstuck in time.

But comparing this game to other games (which is going to be inevitable, unfortunately) is just shorthand for explaining how the game works; this is still a genuinely novel project. The tutorial is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the game, so you dive right in and start playing and most importantly, having fun while you’re figuring out how the game works. Presentation throughout, including the art and especially the music, are excellent. And the puzzle design is genuinely clever, forcing you to combine everything you’ve learned how to do instead of rote repetition of a concept. It’s just a fantastic idea well executed: it doesn’t sacrifice production values for “experimentation,” it doesn’t let itself get pretentious, and it doesn’t sacrifice fun for intelligence. I love it.

The game was started as a project at USC, and the creators are now calling themselves The Odd Gentlemen and have released it on Xbox Live Arcade through 2K Play. (And it’s only 10 bucks!) As much fun as I’m having with the game, I’m even more excited to see a project that went from idea to execution to publishing without anything getting lost along the way.