McPixel 3

I hadn’t heard of McPixel 3 before receiving a review code from Half-Glass Gaming’s editor-in-chief Josh Wirtanen. And he got it, he tells me, from publisher Devolver Digital, though I’m not ruling out the possibility that this might have been some sort of shady black market deal or something along those lines. (Editor’s note: We got the code from Devolver.)

So I have not had the pleasure of playing the original McPixel. Note that didn’t mention McPixel 2; this is because McPixel 2 was apparently whisked away to a government facility of some sort (although it does make an appearance in McPixel 3), but I have been instructed to not worry about that.

So what is McPixel 3? In a nutshell, it’s a collection of wildly unpredictable, often opaque, sometimes amusing, generally toilet-humor themed, increasingly frustrating puzzle minigames. You play as a person I would say is partially akin to a MacGyver type, which is where I am assuming the similar naming convention springs from. You venture around a side-scrolling cityscape, collecting gold coins by completing each minigame, and even more by exhausting every potential incorrect option or gag.

McPixel 3

For example, there’s one stage where you are on a military cargo plane that is about to crash due to a failing engine. You have but a few precious seconds to figure out how to escape safe and sound. You can interact with a number of various different elements in the scene, some of which result in actions one would naturally expect, but not always. In fact, you’re more likely to encounter an action that you never saw coming, and these interactions typically lead to insane and sometimes hilarious results.

For example, you might assume, in the aforementioned cargo-plane scenario, that using the parachute near the plane’s open door would be the best course of action. You would, in McPixel 3‘s logic, be very wrong. Or, at least partially wrong. This is where the humor and also the frustration can set in, in equal doses. Because the game rarely follows commonsense deduction, you can often find yourself merely trying every option just to see what it does as opposed to having a pure “Aha!” moment.

Since the structure of puzzle sets requires you to tackle each one in a series, you often have to wait until you cycle through the others before you can try a different approach. As an example, say there are seven different puzzles in a series. You’ll start on the first one, either succeed or fail, then move onto the second one, and so on. If you make a wrong choice on the first puzzle, you’ll have to wait until you’ve gone through the other six before getting back to the initial puzzle to try something different. And since you also have to sit through a good deal of cutscenes (although some can be skipped), the structure can start to wear on you.

McPixel 3

This is especially true for puzzles that have upwards of seven or eight things you can interact with. All of those interactions — at least, a majority of them — result in a situation that, if failed, requires you to wait until you can try something else. And since a majority of what the player is doing often makes little to no sense, the frustration can compound fast.

Some puzzles in McPixel 3 you can solve by sheer dumb luck on the first go-round simply by choosing what seems like the least likely or just most insane option. I did this on a number of occasions. This, of course, limits the amount of coins you can gain from that puzzle if you miss out on the other scenarios as you work toward 100% completion of that puzzle. Some puzzles only require you choose from one or two options; others require you to choose from a half dozen or more.

Eventually, as you tick off puzzles in a series, the one you are having the most trouble with will be the only one that remains, which means you can continuously attempt to solve it without having to wait to return to it.

There’s one puzzle that really wore on me, in which McPixel is covered in cake in a bar, where two patrons and the bartender want to lick the cake off of you. for some reason, the cutscene for this one puzzle is insanely long and multitiered, and even though most of it is skippable, not all of it is. So having to sit through that, just to then have to sort through the available options to solve it, most of which result in an immediate fail state, almost broke my camel-like back.

But here’s the thing: By and large, I enjoyed my time with McPixel 3. There were several moments when I had a legitimate laugh, and there were multiple instances of me snickering as a result of doing something absurd, like peeing on a bike or just kicking random people for no apparent reason. Even the pained groans from a particularly troublesome puzzle solution could be a welcome distraction.

And McPixel 3 has no shortage of game modes or surprise visits from whomever the Steve character is. There will be a number of instances where you will suddenly have to compete an Out Run-style race, or a Streets of Rage-style beat-’em-up. I would say it’s the sheer variety in puzzles and game modes that surprised me the most. In fact, there’s one puzzle late in the game that marries two different puzzles in the same series, one involves the aforementioned mysterious Steve, while the other is a previous, seemingly unrelated puzzle. That was quite an impressive feat of game design.

I think it took me about seven hours to beat McPixel 3‘s story, although I didn’t 100% every puzzle. But that number is perhaps inflated, because after the first four or five series, I got stuck and couldn’t find the next series to progress the story. So I ended up 100%-ing every puzzle I had access to up to that point, hoping that would somehow propel me forward. It wasn’t until I scoured the admittedly pretty straightforward overworld that I finally found the next series and could continue my journey. So I would say you could feasibly finish this game in maybe five or six hours.

McPixel 3

At the end of the day, McPixel 3 isn’t going to be for everyone. But I can see fans of the previous title — as well as fans of the WarioWare games — finding much to enjoy here. And since I don’t fall into either of those camps, there is obviously a good deal to enjoy for anyone who might randomly stumble upon McPixel 3 as well, much like I did.

The game is simple to play and mostly easy enough to grasp, but it can take some gonzo, outside-the-box thinking, which might not be everyone’s speed. But considering there aren’t many other games like it — at least none that come to mind (presumably barring the first McPixel) — it’s the sort of game you just gotta try for yourself.

McPixel 3 is a glass half full of a micro-brewed single-hop pale ale: complex in flavor and perhaps a bit too much for your average lager fan. But if you can get past that initial hurdle and dissect its many facets, there is a rich and rewarding — if not also demanding — experience to be had.

Disclaimer: I received a review code for McPixel 3 on Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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