A Gamer's Gotta Eat Too: Diner Dash and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom on Xbox Live | Clean Plate Charlie | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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A Gamer's Gotta Eat Too: Diner Dash and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom on Xbox Live

The gastro-revolution is so widespread these days, it's almost impossible to escape food or something connected with it. So when I turned on my Xbox 360 for the first time in ages last night looking to kill some time between feed sessions (that's what I'm calling them), I wasn't at all surprised to find that two food-centric games had crept into the top download spots on the game system's online service, Xbox Live. Those games were The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, a side-scrolling platformer a la Braid that features an unlikely antihero who pilfers pies, and Diner Dash, a sort of puzzle game that puts you in command of a diner and tasks you with waiting on a near-endless stream of customers. Naturally, I downloaded both right away.

After a short download, I fired up Diner Dash and got to playing. You control Flo, an intrepid restaurateur who is blessed with a line of customers that just doesn't stop. That wouldn't be a problem, except these customers are the persnickety sort who up and leave if you so much as look at them the wrong way. As such, much of the game revolves around speeding from table to table, taking orders, delivering food, dropping checks, and clearing plates. While this is going on, you're forced to turn-and-burn -- i.e., seat new tables while the dishes are still spinning on the last -- lest you draw the ire of impatient folk queuing up at your front door.

Underneath the relatively simple design is a strategy game that hinges on the basic tenets of service: How do you effectively manage your time and trips to and from the kitchen so that you're able to keep up with the onslaught of customers? You'll quickly learn that it's not enough to run back to the counter and pick up an order for one table while ignoring another. You'll have to take an order for one four-top while simultaneously giving a check to another. Unless you want to waste time running around, you'll have to learn how to manage all these things at once -- all while taking into account that you only have (you guessed it) "two hands."

As an ex-server, I found dining dash to pretty accurately represent the impossible tight rope you have to walk when waiting on customers. You've got six or more tables, food coming and going from the kitchen, drinks to refill, checks to drop, and people to sit, and you have to find a way to do it all without collapsing. It really struck close to home -- especially with the game's propensity to have all your tables seated at once, and all of them finish at the same time, with short gaps of nothing to do in between. Oh, the life of a server. No one said it was easy.

More loosely based on restaurant reality is The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, a heavily-stylized game that looks like an old movie reel from before they invented "talkies." The main character is the eponymous Winterbottom, a thief of some note who's weakness is pies. He loves him some pie, this fat little dude. He'll chase floating manifestations of the confection all over the city, from rooftop to rooftop, through space and time itself.

The game begins with one particular pie having just escaped Winterbottom's grasp. But it's no ordinary pie. The animate creature conjures up a series of traps for the thief to overcome, and, naturally, it's your job to help him do it. Through clever use of time mechanics and a "cloning" system that has Winterbottom duplicating himself all over the black-and-white world, you can reach otherwise unreachable pies and span impossible distances to be reunited with your love.

In short, Winterbottom is a lot like the hit puzzle platformer Braid, where manipulating time and multiple copies of the main character enables you to reach your goal. If you liked Braid, and you like pies even more, this game is an easy buy for you.

With all the food games hitting Xbox, we can finally fill every spare second of our free time with edibles. That's good for us foodies. But the question is: When will we work off all these excess calories?  

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John Linn

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