PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox, Switch
Thank God for the sweet joy of McPixel. A much-overlooked game from 2012, far too many people failed to recognise the semiotic brilliance of its sophisticated puzzles, based on innovative solutions centred around kicking people in their groin and then weeing on stuff.
With the release, a decade later, of McPixel 3, people can finally put that right. Or even better, pick up both games in the McPixel Trilogy bundle. Or just get the first game for free from Steam. Or torrent it, I guess, given the original was openly endorsed by its creator on Pirate Bay. (I bet new publishers Devolver are just delighted by this.) But also pay for it, because creator Sos deserves richness.
Given the passing ten years, you’ll not be surprised to learn that McPixel has matured as a concept. Where once it was a game about solving around 100 nonsensical levels via linear progression, now it’s a game about solving around 100 nonsensical puzzles from a central hub world! Fortunately, the 20-second puzzles themselves are still focused on kicking things, weeing on stuff, and kicking things you just weed on.
The format is much the same: each level a collection of six mini-levels, each played in rotation until you find the “correct” solution for any, whittling them down until all six are ticked off. In the process, you find any of as many as a dozen “incorrect” endings, with the incentive to go back and 100% them later. Each is a ridiculous and confusing scenario, with the goal opaque, and the means to reach it rarely logical. Which is perfect.
The joy of McPixel is just clicking on stuff and then watching the stupid shit that follows. For instance, you might be on a train that’s, probably, hurtling to its doom. In your carriage are a couple of people, one of them sat holding an empty fish bowl on her lap. There’s a fish on the floor. So, having played any point-n-click game ever, you assume you should put the fish in the bowl. Pick up the fish, and yes, that’s OK, doesn’t end the level. Click on the fishbowl and McPixel dives head-first into it, then curls up inside the water, while the train flies off the tracks to everyone’s death.
You could also flush the fish down a toilet, but it turns out for no other reason than to tick off the action in the level’s 100% list. You could kick someone, but it doesn’t help. What does work is jumping out the window, where McPixel gets up, runs Wile-E-Coyote-style to the front of the speeding locomotive, and pushes it to slow it down so no one dies. Yeah, it’s idiotic, but that’s why this game is so much fun.
This is all about being surprised and laughing out loud. I’ve had just the worst week, an awful time, and remnants are still lingering around me. But playing this today has lifted me out of my funk and had me loudly laughing. That’s a pretty amazing achievement, and makes the game worth every penny.
I love that the ten years hasn’t caused an attempt to make a significantly more involved game, just a much better one. It’s a slicker, less clumsy creation, with all sorts of silly twists on the Wario Ware-esque format of 20 to 60-second levels. And it’s just incredibly childish, a game where peeing on stuff so very often is the answer, and where causing someone else to blow up is considered to be saving the day.