Every couple of times a season, it seems, we're due for another well-crafted downloadable indie gaming sensation on either Xbox Live Arcade, PSN or Nintendo's WiiWare. Last year saw quite a few memorable download-only games, many of them inventive and weird enough to simply be unbankable as a disc-based release. The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom is just such a game, available now on Xbox Live Arcade for the MS Points equivalent of $10.
Long discussed at indie gaming events such as GDC, the Odd Gentlemen-developed game has been published by 2K Games, makers of normally far more mainstream fare. In terms of gameplay, you've seen something like this before, and that something is Braid. Like that game, both are collections of 2D side-scrolling puzzles using the ability to travel back in time to create multiple versions of the main character. Braid involved opening lots of doors, but P.B. Winterbottom only requires you to collect all the pies in a level in order to finish.
The plot? Well, don't expect us to make much sense of it. An old-timey villain who loves pies somehow finds a time-pie that causes everything to repeat, forcing Winterbottom to rewind and fast-forward through steampunkish worlds. The whole game is in black, white, and shades of gray, with overlaid scratchy film effects and silent movie subtitles, beautifully produced.
It's not a tremendously long game, but the puzzles are concise and brain-bending enough to provide several good weekends of pondering. Consider this the Professor Layton of Xbox Live Arcade puzzle gaming. While we expected something more aggressively unique, we'll gladly take more games like Winterbottom over stale retro shooters. It's more than worth a shot.