by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
How to stop a chicken from exploding 101
When a bomb must be defused in movies, it usually falls to the main characters to choose which color-coded wire to cut. We watch tensely, as they decide and make the cut, and just before the bomb is about to explode, the countdown stops. The characters sigh in relief, and they glance lovingly at each other as the credits roll.
In McPixel, I just poured acid down a woman’s throat in order to prevent the chicken that was lodged in her stomach from destroying the supermarket where she worked. And before you ask, no, I am not on drugs. McPixel however, might be. It is a point-and-click puzzler and probably the most surreal game I have ever played. Nothing makes sense, and to try to understand it would be foolhardy. It operates on its own internal rhythm, free from any restraints that modern puzzle games have. And by restraints, I mean logic.
Socially inept, explosively responsible
The game stars McPixel, a man who greets every single person he meets by kicking them in the crotch. Not a people person really, but he does whatever he can to save random locations from exploding. The premise is simple: McPixel has 20 seconds to prevent a bomb from exploding at each location. The thing is, it's not always a bomb that explodes. Often the bomb is actually a person, or a coffee machine, or even a giraffe in one instance. Regardless of what the bomb is, if you fail, you move right along to the next location. The game then loops around until every puzzle in each level is completed.
You quickly learns that the game does not obey any sort of logic. Trying to use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire is pointless, and it requires a lot of experimentation to find the solution. Moreover, what works in one puzzle will not work in another. Imagine a bomb lying on the ground in front of a hot dog stand in a jungle. Clearly the correct answer is to cover the bomb in ketchup and throw it into the jungle for an alien to eat. But try to cover the bomb in ketchup at the fairgrounds, and McPixel will instead eat part of it before exploding.
Progression and Replay Value
If you somehow manage to solve a puzzle, you get a white medal. If you miraculously solve three puzzles in a row, you reach a bonus level. Fail at any point and you lose all the medals. I have finished all 72 initial levels in the game, and I have reached the bonus round exactly four times. Each time I stared at the screen wondering what the hell was going on. And by god it was amazing.
Despite 100 total levels, the sheer randomness of the solutions works greatly for replay value. After playing through the game once, I realized that I had forgotten the solution to every puzzle I have beaten. I guarantee it is impossible to remember how to solve anything.
A case of exploding hobo
Let’s take a look at one of the puzzles in the game. You are in an alleyway with two trashcans, a door, a hobo and a piece of fruit. Using the door causes someone to slam it repeatedly on your face, clicking the hobo merely kicks him in the crotch, and one of the garbage cans is occupied by something that suspiciously resembles Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. The correct answer? Picking up the fruit and placing it in the garbage can with Oscar causes the hobo to dive after it, resulting in him exploding. If that makes sense, McPixel will be your long-lost soulmate.
Stupid is as stupid does
McPixel’s open ended puzzle solving works well for it, especially since the failures are often funnier than the solutions. Watching McPixel drink two litres of coffee and start breakdancing is hilarious to watch. Experimenting is the key to playing the game, especially since a level is never truly beaten until you uncover every incorrect solution as well as the correct one. In this way, failure becomes even more rewarding than actually solving the puzzles, and there is many a laugh to be had from this.
McPixel is one of the rare games that I can genuinely describe as being funny. The use of surrealism and sheer abandonment of logic is a sight to behold, and it is a game that you have to see to believe. I never thought that describing something as stupid could be good, but after playing McPixel, stupid is just the adjective I need.
The sheer randomness is great replay value. Lots of fun.
No Pros and Cons at this time