Date: November 14, 2022
Games have come a long way as an art form. The early years of gaming were simple stuff, Pong and Asteroids; as they got more complex and more popular, they were generally still seen as silly entertainment. Games like Half Life and Portal, The Last of Us, and similar narrative-driven games have shown people that games can be more than time-killers or adrenaline fixes, but can evoke feelings and express truth just like other art. And then there are games like McPixel 3.
Coming 10 years after the original McPixel, McPixel 3 is a point and click adventure game stripped down to bite size snippets of action. You play the titular hero, who has to Save the Day in a series of rapid-fire sequences that vary in consequence — disasters to avert range from epic scenes like exploding volcanos and plane crashes, to mundane chores like preventing a punching match over a game of chess. With all logic thrown out the window, you’ll have to use trial and error, failing time and time again, in order to save the day.
Observant readers might have noticed we skipped McPixel 2 — that’s just the kind of thing Sos Sosowski thinks is funny. Other things he finds funny (judging by the most common reoccurring elements in the game’s 100 levels) include: peeing on stuff, hitting people, things exploding (this happens in every level), more peeing on stuff, breaking objects, setting things on fire, and people pooping. It’s the kind of thing that middle-school me would have found hilarious, but you can only have “McPixel pees on it/them/everywhere” as a gag so many times before it just makes you roll your eyes.
The juvenile humor is fine, and I’m sure plenty of players will find it right up their alley — judging by the generally positive reviews on the original game, it’s clear that it’s a format that works for many people. However, if you don’t find the gags a delight, the game will probably be an exercise in frustration. This is because the game is first and foremost a vehicle for the jokes. All of the puzzles are solved in the most ridiculous way possible, and so you have to try every combination of item and interaction in order to proceed, usually peeing on stuff or getting blown up in the process. Failure results in seeing a “gag”, your ticket for the level gets a few stamps (based on what interactions you saw) and then you’re booted into the next sequence.
Each level contains about 6 or 7 sequences, so while the action keeps moving, you can’t retry sequences immediately until beating all the other sequences in the level. Of course, the whole idea is that you fail, laugh at the results, and then screw it up again the next time that sequence comes around and laugh some more. Some of the more clever sequences were genuinely amusing, like the level with old video games as settings — the sequence where you’re on a Windows 95 desktop was particularly clever. Still, these more interesting levels still contain the same pee jokes as every other level, and because the solution is always found via trial and error, you don’t get the same satisfaction as solving a puzzle gives in a more normal point and click adventure.
Each time you Save the Day (often just by saving your own skin), you’ll earn some coins; finding gags in a level will earn you some additional coins. Get enough of them, and you can unlock one of the other levels by wandering around the city that serves as the game’s hub. There, you can kick everyone you see, and give some of your coins to random NPCs to access the next set of sequences. The pacing works well, and you don’t have to spend too long on any one level so long as you’re trying new things every sequence. There is also a good variety of gameplay, with action mini-games where you drive a car or fly a spaceship interspersed throughout the regular point-and-click levels. It’s simple stuff, but it does its job.
Ultimately, how much you enjoy McPixel 3 will come down to whether or not the humor is your cup of tea. There’s a demo available on steam, and the sequences it contains serve as a pretty solid representation of the game as a whole, so I encourage you to check it out. Even if it isn’t your kind of game, it’s definitely worth experiencing for 5 minutes.