gruebacca's McPixel (PC) review

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By ignoring any and all logic, McPixel brings a clever brand of humor that you don't normally see in video games.

We live in a logical and orderly world where everything makes sense, and I'll be honest when I say that has helped humanity achieve great things, but every once in a while it's nice to branch out into the illogical and the insane just to remind us of how safe and dull our world really is. In most puzzle games, there are logical rules that come into play and strategies that require good thinking skills. McPixel, with it's complete disregard for logic and sanity, requires none of that. You may not think that a puzzle game where you click on random things for no good reason could be great, but McPixel's short format and humorous gags ensure that you won't care whether you're getting anywhere or not.

How to play McPixel: Click on things, and watch what happens.
How to play McPixel: Click on things, and watch what happens.

Kind of like a fusion of WarioWare and those MacGrubber skits from Saturday Night Live, the goal of McPixel is to defuse a bomb in a short period of time. There are 6 levels per stage, and you are given 20 seconds in each level to figure out how to get rid of the bomb and prevent the level you're in from exploding. While a normal puzzle game would require serious thought about the methods to accomplish this, 20 seconds is not a lot of time, so you're regulated to clicking on a bunch of random things in the environment in hopes of finding the correct solution.

That alone sounds like a really dumb way to build a puzzle game, but in McPixel it works. Whether or not you succeed at preventing the level from imminent destruction, something funny is bound to happen. The solutions to the individual puzzles themselves make absolutely no sense. In one puzzle, you're on a burning train and must extinguish the fire. There's a fire extinguisher, so logically you'd pick the fire extinguisher and then click on the fire, right? Well, no. Instead your character holds the extinguisher above the fire until the extinguisher explodes, leading to the train's messy conclusion. The correct solution involves opening a hatch to the left and urinating into the fire to put it out, and save the train from doom.

How can you not laugh at this?
How can you not laugh at this?

What's great about those two actions is that they both end up hilarious. Why does the character not use the fire extinguisher like a normal person? How come peeing in a fire is the solution to everyone's problems? Further more, why would you expect the character to pee in the fire after opening the hatch in the first place? These balls-out scenarios come completely out of left field, and the sheer stupidity that results from a simple mouse click is enough for hilarity to ensue. Like the game's visuals, the gags are crude and unapologetic, many of which involve farts, slapstick comedy, and kicks to the genital region. No matter the outcome, the game quickly moves you on to the next unsolved puzzle, where more dumb gags await your careless and impulsive activation. Going by instinct, rather than thought, is the way to play this game.

After completing each stage by solving all the puzzles, you are given the option to return to the stage to find the remaining incorrect solutions that you never triggered. Given the game's superb sense of humor, it'd be crazy not to go back and see all the madness you missed. You can also play the levels you've already completed in "Endless Mode" in a random order, but there's not much reason to return to the game's puzzles after you've seen them all.

There's also some bonus levels that the game lovingly calls "Free DLC", mostly made of up some of the community's best user creations. Oh, I didn't mention that there's a level editor, did I? It looks really complicated at first, but a single click of the help button brings up a webpage showing clearly the steps needed to make a functional level. The game requires you to follow each step with minute detail, such as painting frames for each animation and scripting them with a text editor. Much of this editing occurs while using other programs, which seems odd. It looks tedious, but it's not impossible to make a good level, as some of the user levels have definitely proven.

McPixel includes a lot of pop culture references, and the game utilizes them all very well.
McPixel includes a lot of pop culture references, and the game utilizes them all very well.

Seeing how much of the game relies on funny gags and jokes, it just wouldn't work if the game wasn't the least bit funny. Thankfully, the format of the game compliments the absolute nonsense of the action on screen. Take one puzzle where all you are given at first glance is a magic wand and Goku. If you click on the wand and then the moon, you are given a special transformation sequence similar to Sailor Moon and then become that show's titular character. You then proceed to decapitate Goku with excessive violence followed by a Mortal Kombat-esque "Fatality" graphic. This sheer randomness is not particularly funny by itself. What's special about this gag is that it's short and it comes out of nowhere, and all you need to do in order to set it in motion is to click a couple of things and watch. This gag, and all others in the game, subvert all expectations where the only thing to expect after enough experience with this game is that nothing makes any lick of sense. Upon that realization, McPixel has ensured your willingness to let things happen as they may. With your God-like powers you can cause abject pandemonium with nothing more than a click or two, and all you are trying to do in the first place is defuse a bomb.

That is the beauty of this game. Forget all conventions of how a game is supposed to be structured and all the rules about how to get the most fun out of games. In the four hours that it will probably take you to see all the puzzles, McPixel only asks that you click on one or two things and take delight in the game's complete madness it throws at you. It's a complete rejection of how games are supposed to work, and it's awesome that McPixel could care less. Whether you are progressing in the game, succeeding or failing at the puzzles, or even just clicking through the menus, McPixel shows off an infallible charm that never falls short of putting a smile on your face.

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