Saturday, 13 July 2013

McPixel (PC)

McPixel title screen
It's Steam Summer Sale time (2013) so I figured I'd play something vaguely Steam related today, and what better choice than the very first game to make it through Steam Greenlight onto the storefront: McPixel!

Actually now that I think about it Half-Life 2 would've probably been the smarter choice, but screw it I've already loaded this up now. It's too late, I'm on the title screen.

Despite the title this isn't actually another McDonalds tie-in game. Instead it's apparently inspired by legendary 80s TV series MacGyver, that everyone on Earth seems to have seen but me. Unfortunately all I know about the series is that the lead actor went on to play that bloke on Stargate originally portrayed by Snake Plissken, so any direct references will be completely lost on me. But I'm totally expecting to be combining things with things to do other things.

Yeah I'm definitely getting the feeling now that I should've gone with Half-Life 2.

Oh, by the way here's a WARNING of my own: this is a puzzle game, so I'm inevitably going to end up spoiling some of the solutions for you (you know, assuming I actually manage to solve any of them), so continue at your own risk.

Damn, McPixel just pushed an old man out of his rocking chair and then kicked the chair to pieces. I only meant to click on 'story mode'!

Crap, I'm not going to be able to get past the chapter select without dropping a baby down a hole am I?

Actually they all look like various different versions of McPixel himself, yanked out of the timestream and lined up in a pink hallway in ascending order of age, so I suppose he'll only really be hurting himself here. And that I have no problem with.

Oh phew, he had me worried for moment there. He did carry the kid across to the hole, but then drop kicked him safely across the room instead. The baby survived!

My self-imposed mission now is to complete Chapter 1 no matter the cost, as only then will I allow myself to turn the game off. That should give me enough exposure to the gameplay to get a good idea of what kind of game it actually is.


CHAPTER 1: ROUND 1 - EASY COME, EASY BOOM.


Right, 'save the day' just flashed up on screen and the music just got serious, so I'm pumped to go get something done somewhere.

Okay I guess I'm starting on this island then. I suppose those icons on the bottom refer to the levels I'll be playing through. The one on the bottom left does kind of look like an island maybe.

And so the game begins. Like on the menus I can click around with my mouse pointer to send McPixel walking to places, though I can never leave this tiny screen. This is basically Game Boy resolution cut in half in case you were wondering, probably the lowest res game on my site so far.

Oh shit, I only have 20 seconds to complete this level? I'd better go click on something.

That... didn't help. It seems that McPixel's default response when meeting new people is to go straight for the crotch. The hotdog vendor doesn't seem to care much though and the timer continues ticking down.

Ah, that's no hotdog down there, that's dynamite! With 14 seconds on the clock I jump into action to extinguish the fuse.

No, not ketchup you idiot! If you're going to put anything on your sandy dynamite, stick some mustard on it.

And then he slams the bun into his face and explodes. Nice job hero.

Then his logo flashes up on screen just to rub it in.

Alright, I think I have an idea what to do next time...

Uh, what? Is that it then, did I just blow my one and only chance to save the island?

This time I seem to be in a hospital, with a doctor, an axe, and a man with a stick of dynamite stuck up his ass. Well I'd try chatting to the doctor to discuss his soon to be fatal condition, but that'd only trigger a swift and pointless kick to her groin, so I'm going to have to be more imaginative here.

Well blowing his nose on the curtain didn't help. Though maybe I could...

Well fuck. I can pick up items or kick people, but as soon as I take any other action the level is over. In fact there's a smoking crater where the level used to be.


A FEW LEVELS LATER.


This is the final level of the chapter now. I've played five levels so far and have had five total failures. But hey I'm in a school now and there's no way the game's going to blow up children, right? Right?

Okay think McPixel, THINK! What do we have around us? A locker, a trophy, a fire alarm, a blonde girl and a kid in a cap. Well the locker would be an obvious place to look for the bomb, so it's obviously not where I'm supposed to click; I only get one action and simply finding the bomb solves nothing.

Logically then my correct course of action must be to take the trophy and then hit the fire alarm. Because I like to acquire shiny things and this whole place is going be a blazing inferno in about 9 seconds.

Wow, as soon as the alarm went off the guy in the cap ran over and grabbed the trophy out of my hands, then swapped it for the nuke in the locker. Uh, level complete?

Level complete! The school remains intact and all is well. I've even been awarded a square of toilet paper for my incredible, yet incredibly belated success. Well one level out of six isn't bad.

Huh, I'm back on the first level again? Oh I see how it works! I keep going around in a loop replaying the levels I've yet to solve until they're all done.

Squirting ketchup in McPixel's face doesn't seem to be the solution to this puzzle, so I'll have to cross that off the list. This is like a classic point and click adventure gameplay boiled down to the simplest form: trial and error, using everything on everything until something eventually works. At least everything's in the same place so I don't have to do a lot of tedious wandering between areas.

Huh, my toilet paper just exploded along with the island. They've stolen my reward! I wanted to know what happens when I get three in a row as well.

So I suppose I have to complete three levels without making a single error in between to get the full set and fill all my boxes. Right, I'll get on with doing that then.


THREE PERFECT LEVELS IN A ROW LATER.


Awww shit, getting three pieces of paper in my box has earned me a Nyan Cow bonus round! Excellent attention to detail on the twinkling stars in the background there, but it's a shame it doesn't play the actual song. Though that can soon be fixed thanks to the miracle of youtube.

So okay there's cats all over the rainbow and I can pick one of them up at a time. Uh...?

Sorry, but it's going to take me a lot longer than 10 seconds to figure out what it wants me to do here. Bonus round FAILED.

I think I'll just leave this Nyan Cat tune on a little longer though...


MANY LEVELS LATER.


This first chapter has three main rounds, accessible through these three doors, each with a rotation of six levels. But it also has a window, behind which lies a special round, with special levels.

The trouble is that to unlock the window I'll first need to attain gold in all of the 18 levels I've just completed, and you don't earn gold in this by completing levels quickly...

Nope, you earn gold by achieving ultimate failure in all its myriad forms: finding every single possible way to screw up and seeing all the jokes. Like in this case the joke is that I just swung up and kicked a complete stranger in the face so hard that his head exploded. And then the bomb exploded too and everyone died! The jokes aren't all winners.

I don't mind there being some kind of award for finding every gag, but locking off a quarter of the game until you've worked though each of the levels and systematically clicked on everything in every way they can be clicked seems a bit harsh. Surely if people really want to see what happens when they use the false teeth on the bomb they'd do it anyway without being pressured, and probably enjoy it more.


SOON.


Oh crap, I just got three gold tokens in a row and things have gone a bit... wonky.

It's turning into one of those deliberately terrible MS Paint webcomics all of a sudden.

I hate those deliberately terrible MS Paint webcomics.

Anyway, I've gone through the first three rounds of chapter 1 and failed in all the ways that it's possible to fail, so I'm finally ready to climb out through the special window into the wondrous unknown.


CHAPTER 1: SPECIAL ROUND - CINEMATIC EXPLOSION.


The special round turns out to be themed around witty parodies of Hollywood blockbusters, with this particular level seriously tempting the wrath of LucasFilm.

In case you're wondering what you're seeing here, I'll walk you through it. To beat the level I had to stick a lightsaber up McPixel's nose, so that the blade shot out of both nostrils simultaneously and he was able to achieve flight by flapping it up and down. Then he was able to grab R2D2 with his legs and fly him (and the bomb within) safely off the Death Star.

I mean holy shit, that has to be the dumbest solution to anything I've ever seen in a video game, and I've played Gabriel Knight III. Vader's face says it all really; THIS is the closest we'll ever get to a Star Wars point and click adventure game. It's a tragedy, a total tragedy.


SOME TRIAL AND ERROR AND ERROR AND ERROR LATER.


This one took me forever to beat. There's two gunfighters and a wedding ring on the floor, so the solution is of course... to turn off the sun. Not only is logic not your friend in this game, but also clicking on bits of the background until something happens is a normal part of gameplay.

But I had to keep going with the special round until I'd completed it, as finishing the entire first chapter unlocks a mysterious item on the extras page. I was expecting, I dunno, concept art or something, but it actually turned out to be...

...a level editor! Well, kind of. It's actually more of a tool to test out levels that have been scripted and then imported as a text file. Man, I had no idea Max was so huge compared to Guybrush Threepwood. That rabbit's got a grin as long as Guybrush's arm.

There's a decent tutorial explaining how it all works on the official website and user designed levels can be submitted to the developer himself to be added to the game as free DLC.

By the way there's a ton of extra content here to play in the Free DLC box if for whatever reason you can't get enough of McPixel being a massive asshole.

So if you've ever wanted to harass the chicken mask killer from Hotline Miami using an actual chicken, this is your big chance. Personally though I think I'll politely excuse myself and then make a run for the exit. If I play this any longer I might be in danger of damaging my brain or gameplay experience.


Good point and click adventures are often about the 'aha' moment where you finally figure out the logical solution to a puzzle and get to feel smug. McPixel is the opposite of that. It basically seems to be about seeing what happens when you try stuff out, until you stumble across the one slapstick gag that completes the level.

But I've got a healthy appreciation for dumb humour, so it actually made me smile. McPixel himself is one of the nastiest protagonists I've ever seen in a game, only capable of interacting with society through unprovoked violence. I mean he starts out by shoving an elderly man out of his chair and then drop kicking a baby and that's just on the menu screen, so it's a pleasure to watch everything he does backfire on him.

As a game it's terrible, which isn't a huge shock as the original 6 level version was made in just 48 hours (graphics and all) for the 21st Ludum Dare competition, but I'm giving it a gold star anyway simply because I wouldn't mind playing more of it. It's pretty well made, it's got a lot of unique character and imagination, the dramatic music perfectly suits the action and keeps the pace up, and I honestly found it funny. Sometimes.

It's an interactive experience!

You can buy a McPixel of your very own from Steam by following this link!
But you'll also find it for sale on itch.io if you click this link!!
And you can get it directly from the official McPixel website with this link!!!

Anyway that was McPixel. Comments are welcome etc.

2 comments:

  1. Apparently, this isn't inspired by MacGyver - or at least, not directly. It's based on the "MacGruber" parody character from Saturday Night Live, whose sketches all follow a "we're stuck in this room and the bomb is going to blow in X seconds" format.

    With this in mind, the "rewarding failure" aspect of the game makes more sense - MacGruber sketches tend to end with the bomb exploding while he gets distracted with something else. In fact, I don't know if there are any MacGruber sketches where he DOES defuse the bomb...

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    1. Thanks, I was a little confused at how the developer decided to spoof a character known for building stuff out of duct tape but ended up with a game about defusing bombs. Suddenly a lot of things are making a whole lot more sense to me.

      Though now I'm just as confused about the MacGruber sketches!

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