Interview: Lord Winklebottom Investigates

Heidi Nicholas - July 2nd 2022

Lord Winklebottom Investigates brings a murder mystery, dashing animals, and point-and-click gameplay when it launches in July. We spoke to developer Cave Monsters’ Charlotte Sutherland to learn more.

Fancy diving into a murder mystery game set in the 1920s and populated by fabulously-dressed animals? You’ll be able to do just that when Lord Winklebottom Investigates launches in July. We reached out to developer Cave Monsters to learn more, with sole developer Charlotte Sutherland having been kind enough to answer our questions.

What is Lord Winklebottom Investigates?

Lord Winklebottom Investigates is a murder mystery, point-and-click adventure game set in the 1920s and featuring a lot of fancy animals. It’s in development from and published by Cave Monsters.

Sutherland is the sole developer at Cave Monsters. “I’ve had some people helping me out with regards to social media and marketing,” she explains. “I’ve been working with Acorn Games to help me with managing social media on Twitter and things like that… it makes it a bit easier for me so I can concentrate on the development.” Some students helped out a little, with a few days' work doing a handful of background animations and cutting up some of the VO files, while Gustavo Coutinho worked on the soundtrack, but the majority of the work was done by Sutherland. “I’ve worked on it mainly solo up until the music, really,” she explains.

As for which parts of development she most enjoyed, Sutherland tells us, “the main stuff I’ve really enjoyed is doing the paintings of the characters and doing the animation. I enjoy coming up with the story… some of the more technical elements... I’m not a coder, so those have been more of a learning curve for me, but the actual art creation and getting the theming down and just seeing everything come to life in that way has been really enjoyable. Also getting the voice actors and getting the lines recorded,” she continues. “After playing the game again with all the voices in, that makes it seem much richer and alive — it’s nice to see it in that state, it feels much more fleshed-out and I think it adds to the atmosphere and the tone of it all. It was really exciting working with voice actors to do that.”

When does Lord Winklebottom Investigates launch?

We now have a release date for Lord Winklebottom Investigates, which launches for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on July 28th. It’ll be priced at £15.99/$18.99/€18.99.

What’s it about?

In Lord Winklebottom Investigates, we play as Lord Winklebottom himself — a gentleman giraffe and a renowned detective. He and his hippo friend, Dr. Frumple, are invited to a lonely island only to find on their arrival that their old friend has been murdered, leaving behind a mystery for Lord Winklebottom to solve.

It’s a wonderful idea, to populate the game with animals rather than people. “It all stemmed from a painting I did after going to the zoo one day,” Sutherland explains. “I usually go to the zoo quite a bit at weekends, and I thought it would be nice to do a series of fancy animals as paintings, and I did a very snooty-looking giraffe — he looks a bit different, he looks much snootier than the final rendition of Lord Winklebottom, and I wanted to go with a slightly funny-ish name… it sounds slightly bemusing,” Sutherland continues, “and I thought it would be a funny little character. There weren't really any initial plans to do him as a game, it was just sort of a series of fancy animal paintings — I did Dr. Frumple the same way, he was the second sort of fancy animal painting that I did… it all really stemmed from going to the zoo. It was after doing a few of the paintings that I thought it might lend itself to a point-and-click adventure-style narrative game,” Sutherland adds. “At the time, I was also watching stuff like Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, and I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie in the past, so I kind of blended them together slightly with the fancy animal elements.”

Be warned, however — Sutherland tells us that “there’s more going on than meets the eye… the story gets darker as it goes along.”

How does Lord Winklebottom Investigates play?

“I’ve tried to go for classic point-and-click gameplay,” Sutherland tells us, “so there will be some interrogation, you’ll be discovering clues about people in your notepad — you have a notepad system, you can go through that and collect the clues so you can make your own conclusions based on that, as well as unlocking other talking points.” Along with collecting clues and interviewing suspects, we’ll also face a number of puzzles around the island and the house — “a lot of it is using items that you’ve found, combining items to make new ones, solving some puzzles to access new areas, and also using those items potentially on the suspects as well to progress the story and to get them to come out with new information,” Sutherland concludes. Naturally, Lord Winklebottom will be equipped with endless pockets for the clues he collects in his investigation.

What’s the world like?

Lord Winklebottom Investigates is set in the 1920s, and is inspired by British murder mysteries. “I wanted to set it in the past as I thought it might be more in keeping with the theme,” Sutherland begins, adding, “it was more that kind of old prim and proper style kind of British murder mystery stuff… I wanted to get a mixture across of the time periods,” Sutherland continues, explaining that Sherlock Holmes was one inspiration for the game. “I was also listening to Paul Temple on the radio, which is set later, so I tried to get a nice inbetween where it’s still art deco-y in a way — it’s kind of getting that inbetween stage of classic British murder mystery.”

In the game, Lord Winklebottom and Dr. Frumple travel to the Isle of Barghest. Sutherland tells us that it’s a small island with about five or six locations, including the house, the crypt, the jetty, and the cave — “each one has some other bits in it — the house, for instance, has other rooms you can explore. The island has a few areas that are potentially locked at certain points, so it is a case of progressing through with the story — it’s more of an isolated island, so there’s only the one manor house on there… they have a family crypt on the island, so you can explore around there… there’s the jetty where you first arrive, there’s other areas that can be explored off of there, and there’s a lighthouse… but there’s a few areas that you can’t necessarily get to straight away, so it’s more unlocking them through the story.” To add to that creepier atmosphere of Lord Winklebottom Investigates, “when you first arrive, there’s a storm, so you’re trapped for a little while.” Sutherland adds that “it’s a bit darker to begin with… I wanted it to be slightly in the theme of ‘And Then There Were None’ so that everybody’s trapped on a little island that you can’t really escape — that’s where the storm comes in, so you’re stuck there with the suspects.”

Sutherland explains that she also “wanted to get a 1920s vibe” for the music, and that Gustavo, the composer, “was actually a kickstarter backer that offered his services of composing” — he had previously worked on other games, including Payday 2. “He sent over a really good sample reel, and it really got the vibe I was looking for, for that era, and it has an ominous vibe to it as well — it adds a lot of character to it. When it all comes together with the lighting and the character, it feels to me like it invokes that atmosphere of that old murder mystery in that ominous setting.” Sutherland’s aim was to “mix and match things I’m interested in in general, like with the comedy — it’s a bit more deadpan, so I’m trying to get that British humour in there — in a sarcastic, deadpan way, rather than it being puns or stuff like that.”

Any news on the Lord Winklebottom Investigates achievements?

We now have the Lord Winklebottom Investigates achievements! Sutherland also gave us an idea of what to expect beforehand, telling us that we will see the game’s sense of humour reflected in its achievements. “There will be stuff in the achievements that suits that slightly comical but quirky style, such as stuff that stood out in testing — things that people found amusing, I tried to kind of incorporate achievements into those elements.” Interestingly, Sutherland adds that “there’s a few optional achievements in there… depending on your choices, you may or may not get all of the achievements.” We might not have the full Lord Winklebottom Investigates list yet, but we are told of one achievement in advance: “if you eat a plant in front of the gardener (the gardener’s a slug) — you can eat it when he’s not there, but if you eat it in front of him, he kicks up a fuss. That achievement’s called Grand Theft Flora, so I’ve tried to incorporate a bit of humour where possible,” Sutherland explains, “while also trying to make it so that you won’t necessarily get them all straight away — it does depend on your choices in a few places.” We wondered what these different choices might mean for replayability, and Sutherland explains, “the ending of the game will stay the same — I’ve tried to keep it manageable for me working on it, because I knew if I did an open-ended thing with a lot of different endings, it would take a lot more work and make it a lot harder for me, as I’ve already been working on it for a few years. I tried to keep it within the scope that I knew I could manage at the time. It’s a linear story, but there’s a few extra achievements you could get the second time round, if you do miss any.”

As for her thoughts on what makes for an ideal achievement list: “I do like stuff where it depends on your choices — with regards to some of the games I’ve played, I do prefer if you do have a choice-impacted achievements rather than just the standard flow of achievements… I’ve been playing The Quarry recently — stuff like that where you have impact-based achievements, I think it adds to the experience for the player.”

Lord Winklebottom looks like it will hook us in with its mysterious story, investigative gameplay, and deadpan sense of humour. Out of all that it offers, what is Sutherland most excited for players to experience? “I hope that they’re going to enjoy the story, and enjoy the aspect of the animals in place of the people, having the anthropomorphic murder mystery style — I know it’s a bit unusual and a bit quirky so I hope people do enjoy the atmosphere of it and the art style, and the theming of it. It is a bit quirky,” Sutherland says. “I wanted to do a game that I would like to play, so I’m hoping that other people will enjoy what I’ve created.”

What do you think? Will you be travelling to the Isle of Barghest in July? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Track My Progress in Lord Winklebottom Investigates