Thank God for the idiotic 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 peeing on stuff. A decade later, finally a sequel—McPixel 3—is with us.
In case you’re somehow unfamiliar with the (now free!) McPixel, it was a game that was—in a complex series of turns—a spoof of MacGruber’s spoof of MacGyver. A collection of WarioWare-ish minigames, each of its 100 or so levels was a 20-second challenge to prevent a bomb from exploding. Most likely by weeing on something, or if that fails, by kicking someone else in the willy. And importantly, failure was very much the point: The more you failed, the more gags you saw. Yes, it absolutely was extremely childish. But also very funny.
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 roughly 100 nonsensical levels via linear progression, now it’s a game about solving roughly 100 nonsensical puzzles from a central hub world! Fortunately, the puzzles themselves are still focused on kicking things, weeing on stuff, and kicking things you just weed on.
The format in this second game is much the same: each level is a collection of six mini-levels, 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 as many as a dozen “incorrect” endings, with the incentive to go back and 100 percent 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 this is for no other reason than to tick off the action in the level’s 100 percent 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 intervening ten years hasn’t resulted in 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 WarioWare-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.