"There always seems to be a way to fix things." - MacGyver
I think I understand what McPixel 3 is going for here. I was there when adventure games carried the day, so I’m used to the oblique approach required to solve their puzzles. But a mashup of ’90s adventures and microgames of WarioWare? Is this a thing people wanted?
It would appear so, as 2012’s McPixel was successful enough to spawn this sequel. “What happened to McPixel 2?” you ask. It went the way of Leisure Suit Larry IV, apparently. It’s just a thing that happens with adventure/puzzle games. It’s not important, anyway, as there’s no story to concern yourself with here. You’re just a guy named McPixel who constantly finds himself in life-or-death situations with only seconds to save the day. 100 of them, in fact.
An opening segments, for example, find you in an airplane with a blown engine, a train racing towards a destroyed bridge, a forest fire about to spread out of control, and more. Each of these has various objects and characters at your disposal, and it’s your task to figure out which to use, and in which order, to prevent the worst from happening.
It’s a fun premise that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s seen an episode of MacGyver. And if you thought MacGyver’s final-seconds approaches to puzzle solving was insane, you haven’t seen anything. McPixel 3 embraces the nonsense of ’90s adventures with such aplomb that you may come to resent it.
Using the crashing airplane as an example, you’d think sitting at the controls would be a good idea, but no. You’d think grabbing the parachute would be a good idea, but not really, and certainly not before first dropping the shovel out the door. Why? Because this is an adventure game; the shovel is there, so of course you’re going to need it! Also, you may want to beat up one of the passengers and toss him out the door, too. Why? Because he’s there and this is an adventure game! How many times do I have to explain this to you?!
So, the quick-thinking puzzles aren’t really there for you to quick-think your way through but to trial-and-error your way through. There’s simply no way you can look at the available items and logically reach the proper way to safety, and you’re not really meant to.; there’s comedy in trying the wrong way and suffering its consequences. You’d think pouring water on a fire is the way to put it out, but have you considered drinking all the water and urinating on it? Have you considered kicking just about every NPC in the junk? Because that happens a lot.
That brings us back to the comedy. When the gags land, they’re pretty funny. But there are 100 levels in this game, and that’s a lot of jokes to tell. Too many jokes. As such, the gags are often too basic to be funny. Playing McPixel 3 can sometimes feel like listening to a grade-school kid repeatedly tell you the same poop joke in case the reason you’re not laughing is because you didn’t hear it.
What’s more, it’s possible to save the day without seeing all of the gags. The game tells you this, so you’re welcome to go back and replay levels you solved just because you didn’t do so at 100%. Is it worth it to mine for comedy? Likely not, but the completionist in me couldn’t just move forward when there were items left untouched.
To its credit, McPixel 3 does try to drive you through quickly. You can turn on markers that indicate which items can be used, and even cycle through them if they’re too close together. You can skip intro scenes if you’ve seen them too many times. The task timeline gives you clues on what you may have missed.
Also, McPixel 3 has an insane amount of energy, pushing forward at a speed that’s hard to abandon. You also get trapped in blocks of five puzzles at a time, rotating back to the ones you didn’t solve before you’re able to advance. This helps to keep your failures fresh in your mind so you can try something different before you forget what hasn’t worked.
The whole package is presented with the 8-bit visuals of the ’90s adventure games that seem to have inspired it. They fit the messy gameplay and enhance the comedy; it’s easier to handle potty humor when it doesn’t look real.
McPixel 3 is not a long game, and if you play it through to completion, you’ll likely do so in short bursts. As such, fatigue doesn’t ever set in. Disinterest may, but if you’re able to get into its overall vibe, it does just enough to keep you entertained throughout. I just hope if we get a McPixel 5 in another 10 years that it’ll rely a bit more on the puzzles and less on the gags.
Review: McPixel 3 (Nintendo Switch)
McPixel 3 is a gag-heavy mashup of microgames and ’90s adventure puzzles. It works when relying on speed and insanity, but its repetition and heavy reliance on trial-and-error solutions and gross-out humor will turn all but a few players away before completion.