It’s hypothetical question time! So, you’re on a plane, right, and there’s this live nuke at your feet that’ll detonate in 20 seconds. Plus, there’s a rather hungry lookin’ giant snake that’s eyeing you up for a meal. And no, there aren’t any parachutes in sight. All you’ve got at your disposal is a handy shovel and some lightning-fast reflexes. Quick MacGyver! How do you get outta this one!?!?
What, you got nothing? Really? But the solution is so obvious! First, you kick the nuke into the snake’s gaping mouth, whack it rest of the way down the poor bugger’s digestive system using the shovel, and then hold his mouth closed. That way, the entire explosive force of the nuke will be contained within the snake’s body! And that my friends, is how you protect yourself from a nuclear explosion AND defeat a giant snake at the same time! Oh, wait. I should’ve probably mentioned that this is all happening inside a point ‘n click adventure game, a genre in which just about any problem can be solved, provided the solution makes absolutely zero goddamn sense.
Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration really. As much as a lot of us (e.g. me) like to remember all adventure games as being complete and utter nonsense, many of the puzzle solutions from classics like Loom and Monkey Island did follow at least some semblance of logic (even if they did get a little crazy at times….). But with McPixel, there’s no chance of any hyperbole going on. Indeed, I’d say it’s almost impossible to overstate the madness this game brings to the table anyway. Yes, it’s quite literally balls to the walls insane 110% of the time without fail.
The comically absurd “puzzle” I opened this review with? That’s not even close to the craziest thing this game’s thrown at me so far (although it is perhaps the funniest). It’s almost like the developer somehow collected every single silly adventure game puzzle ever, made them even more ridiculous, and then plonked an arbitrary 20 second time limit on ‘em out of pure malice. To put it simply, this game has all the frustration of a nightmarishly awkward pixel hunter, mixed in with the unrelenting pace of Wario Ware. Also, it’s……. fun? Go figure.
Alright, let’s get this bit over with. Visuals: 8-bit pixel art, yadda yadda yadda harkens back to the day when blah blah blah RETRO herp derp derp. Look, if you’re reading an Indie game blog then you’ve seen this stuff a million times before, so I’ll try and spare you the needless nostalgic reminiscing this time around. All you need to know is that the old-school aesthetics in McPixel are about as spot-on as they could possibly be; no elaboration needed. I would, however, like to give special mention to the kick-ass music. While some of the tracks might loop a little bit too often for my taste, it’s still by far the most impressive attempt at making an authentic adventure game soundtrack that ever I’ve heard! Why, it reminds me of back in the day when I played The Curse of Monkey Island and……BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. Moving on.
The core game mode in McPixel is broken up into rounds, and each round contains 6 wacky scenarios, all of which contain a non-descript bomb of some kind that’ll detonate in exactly 20 seconds. Within that very limited time frame you must partake in the time-honoured tradition of clicking random stuff like a madman in order to find some kind of insane solution to your impending doom. More often than not, however, you’ll instead stumble upon one of the many “easter egg” endings which, while suitably hilarious, will still bring you to an untimely end. Either way, the game’ll chuck you into the next balmy predicament on the list until you’ve found all the non-fatal endings in that round.
The fact the game runs at such a breakneck pace is probably what saves it from being anywhere near as frustrating as the old school puzzles it’s trying to parody. The reason those kinds of mind-bogglers got annoying in “real” adventure games was that they made any kind of smooth progression totally impossible, often leaving you trapped in the same area for hours on end. But if you can’t figure something out in McPixel, then no worries, ‘c0s you’ll be dead in 20 seconds and then thrown into the next puzzle anyway. Even then, it rarely takes more than two or three attempts to learn the ins and outs of each scenario pretty thoroughly (near-incomprehensible bonus levels aside). At the very most, you’re looking about two clicks per solution, none of which require any sense timing or skill.
In fact, almost every solution is so goddamn surreal that there’s no possible way you’d find them other than just brute-forcing every possible combination until you get lucky. The very few solutions that aren’t completely insane are instead laughably straightforward, as if to toy with what little comprehension you thought you had of McPixel‘s warped reality. I guess the lack of real “gameplay” here should make me angry or something, but it really doesn’t. If anything, its sheer absurdity and unpredictability makes McPixel an extremely appealing “turn-off brain” experience. If it wasn’t for the harsh time constraints, constant explosions and chuckle-worthy humour, I’d almost call it relaxing!
Eventually, though, the joke does being to wear a little thin. While the extensive variety of levels in McPixel keeps things interesting for way longer than you might expect, at the end of the day all it’s doing (albeit masterfully) is pulling off the same gag over and over again in little 20 second chunks. For some, I think that’s going to make the price tag of $9.99 a bit of a hard sell. But hey, it made me laugh more than I’ve laughed in a long while; can you really put a price on that?
McPixel will be available 26th of June and can currently be preordered via the official site for $9.99 (~£6.50) with an additional $1/$2.50 discount available if you also submit a piece of fan-art/video content with your order. Preordering will net you a free copy of Super Office Stress and the McPixel OST!
Spot-on retro graphics
Tons of levels
No real depth
Only has one joke