McPixel Review

Do you need a man’s man in your life? A creative problem solver who’s good in a fight and ready to save the day? Then you need McPixel.

This retro-eighties action hero would bear a strong resemblance to Richard Dean Anderson’s MacGyver, if you could pick out any details in his blocky sprite-like image. He also owes a lot to the Saturday Night Live parody character MacGruber, who inevitably finds himself trapped with a bomb and 20 seconds to live. McPixel defies comparison, though, because when the chips are down he’s all point-and-click action.

McPixel is imbued with the spirit of taciturn action heroes, so he needs no plot or dialogue. Each round of his game is a little action movie composed of six scenes that have almost nothing to do with each other. When a scene begins, McPixel has 20 seconds to figure out where the bomb is and what combination of actions, items and other characters will prevent it from going off.

Jaw-dropping.

Most scenes offer three or four things to interact with. McPixel may find himself in an operating room with a doctor, a nurse, a patient, and a bomb. He may be in a falling elevator car, with nothing to work with except a fire extinguisher, the door controls, and a bellman. There are a hundred different scenarios, and most of them are ridiculous. (There are also guest appearances by Batman, the Powerpuff Girls, alien Greys, and the French.)

The solutions are always simple, involving one or two actions. They’re usually crude or violent. McPixel interacts with people by kicking them, and several puzzles depend on his ability to urinate at will. Some of the solutions are obvious, some of them can be deduced, and many others follow the point-and-click adventure tradition of being frustratingly arbitrary and random.

Fortunately, the speed of the game diminishes the frustration. When you get stuck on a puzzle, the 20-seconds-to-detonation pacing whisks you away to the next scene. By the time you cycle back to the scene you got stuck on, your subconscious has had time to work on the problem and you’re likely to have a new idea to try out. Even the most arbitrary puzzles eventually succumb to trial-and-error, and both the trials and the errors are fun.

Beach-side service.

The only time this isn’t fun is at the end of the round. You skip over the puzzles you’ve already solved, so by the end you’re facing the hardest problem over and over again. It can get a little irritating. McPixel’s scenes are the equivalent of one-liners, and they don’t hold up well with repetition.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of repetition in later stages of the game. There are four chapters in the game and four rounds per chapter. When you unlock a chapter, it presents three rounds that can be played in any order. If you solve the puzzles in those three rounds, you unlock the next chapter.

However, there’s also a fourth bonus round in each chapter. If you want to play that round, you have to discover all the gags in the other three rounds by finding all the wrong answers. This quickly gets tedious. There’s also an endless mode that challenges you to replay levels you’ve already solved. There’s not much point in solving them again.

McPixel’s graphic design looks ugly on the iPad, and the game is a collection of cheap gags. In those respects, it’s a lot like Henny Youngman. The humor may not be for everyone, but if you like what McPixel offers, he’ll give you a pretty good song and dance.

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