Wot I Think: McPixel

By John Walker on October 3rd, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

SOS’s McPixel successfully made its way through the Steam Greenlight process, and even advertised itself on The Pirate Bay. I’ve weed and vomited and pushed and farted and made out with Obamaed my way through every level of this splendid madness, and can tell you wot I think.

While playing serious, “important” games, running a business, and chasing after the naughty, I count it as pure joy that there are the McPixels to play too. This absolutely ludicrous, completely unfair, and utterly daft game has the internal consistency of a Liberal Democrat politician. And I love it.

Here’s the premise: Er. Collections of 20 second minigames each require you to stop a bomb from exploding. Well, I say “a bomb”. It might be a person. Or a dog. You’ve got to stop something from exploding, and you have one or two clicks to do it in. Importantly, objects that can be interacted with aren’t usefully distinguished from those that can’t, and it goes to some exceptional lengths to ensure there’s no internal logic whatsoever. If something similar worked before, you can be certain that this time it won’t this time. So perhaps there’s a burning fuse and a duck sat in a tree. Well, clearly you should just click on the sparks on the fuse and just pick those up. Next time you see a burning fuse, you’d obviously be an idiot to try to pick it up, because the answer blatantly lies in drinking a beer and then pissing on someone.

Displayed in vast, chunky pixels, the animation most immediately reminds me of Digitiser cartoons. The majority of your interactions are kicking people or objects, with again no rhyme nor reason as to what this achieves. Kicking a bomb might be the only way to get it out of the window. Or it might make it explode on the spot. Kicking a person might cause them to fall on top of something useful. Or it might cause your foot to get stuck in their bottom, whereupon you’re then sucked inside them.

Solving a puzzle correctly gets you a white blob, and if you solve three correctly in a row, you get to play a bonus level. Fail at any point and they’re all wiped out. In my first play through of the game’s initial 72 levels (it gets up to 100 once you unlock a final section in each chapter) I achieved reaching a bonus level precisely twice. And both times stared in blank confusion at what I was supposed to be doing. And loved it.

In fact, so spurious and unpredictable are the “correct” “solutions” to each mini-challenge that on replaying the game, I still have absolutely no idea what to do. Any chance of remembering the correct action is lost in the muddle of having tried each three or four times before getting anywhere, and with there being no rationale to why whatever eventually worked, worked, it’s nigh-impossible to remember the right way. Replayability!

Let’s take a particular puzzle as an example. There’s a zookeeper, a tall giraffe, a smaller giraffe, and a hypodermic needle on the ground. So, how do you stop the explosion? “Er, what explosion?” you may well ask. Good question! So maybe I click on the needle to pick it up, and then click it on the taller giraffe. I do that, and the giraffe turns pink with colourful spots, and then the zoo explodes. Try to inject the zookeeper and McPixel will instead just pointlessly kick him. Maybe click directly on the taller giraffe? That makes McPixel tickle him until he vibrates into a frenzy, then explosion. No, obviously the right answer is to inject the smaller giraffe, causing the larger one to bend down, reveal it has a stick of dynamite in its mouth, and the swallow it. This causes the giraffe to balloon out into a mad sack of yellow on the ground, and everyone is saved! People and animals internalising explosions and turning into mad sacks is quite a common end to levels in McPixel. (Of course, if you’d just kicked the smaller giraffe, the taller one would have reacted by lowering its head and not swallowing the dynamite, all killed.)

Sometimes the solution is immediately obvious. There’s a fire on the floor of a train carriage, and a fire extinguisher nearby. So, obviously you pick up the extinguisher and put the fire out, right? No, idiot. That leads to holding the extinguisher over the fire until it explodes. What you’re supposed to do is click on a just-visible trapdoor elsewhere on the floor, revealing a fiery pit below, into which McPixel wees. That puts the fire out, explosion averted.

Let’s do one more. There’s a rooftop. With you is a man in a hat, a TV aerial, a hole in the tiles, and a cow with the stick of dynamite up its bottom. Shoving the aerial in the cow’s arse does cause it to develop a television screen on its side, but doesn’t avert the explosion. Putting the aerial down the hole doesn’t help either. But putting it on the man’s hat does! Lightning strikes him, burning him to a crisp, which for no explicable reason means the cow-bum-based dynamite no longer blows up.

The key to why this works is because getting a level “right” is no more or less fun than getting one “wrong”. It’s the joy of clicking on stuff and seeing what nonsensical thing happens as a result. Sometimes an incorrect solution can lead to an extended animation of increasing ridiculousness, more entertaining that whatever doesn’t cause an explosion. And while preventing an explosions means the level is marked as completed, it’s not really finished until you’ve turned the icon gold, meaning you’ve found every incorrect solution too.

As I go back to replay this as I write, I just got three golds in a row, leading to the ultimate bonus round! A broken-screened mash of many of the levels, overlapping each other in a completely incomprehensible way, rotating like a broken television. I clicked on something recognisable – the zoo’s archway, causing a big brown horse to glide across the screen in two places at once, then zoom in far too close on his face as the words “A HORSE” appeared, before the entire jumbled insanity exploded. I hooted instead of laughed. I don’t think I’ve made that noise before.

It’s £4 on Steam, and that’s a fine price for the silliest fun I’ve had in ages. And I’ve just noticed the Free DLC section which has a bunch more levels. It’s freeing to have all logic removed, to have all fairness abandoned, and just be asked to embrace anarchic idiocy.

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63 Comments »

  1. golem09 says:

    I had to try the “Insert Virgin” one about a dozen times.
    Then it was so obvious

    • Arvind says:

      That was the only puzzle I instinctively knew the answer to, and got a laugh out of it.

      The only problem I have with the game is that if you don’t like it’s sense of humor (I found it very similar to the SNL MacGruber, the “lol so random” school of humor), then there isn’t anything else in it for you. But if you like that sort of thing, then it’s pretty fun.

      The virgin puzzle was the only one where I paused to laugh for like a minute, other than that I had a light chuckle every 5th puzzle or so.

  2. Luringen says:

    This game is hilarious and great.

  3. captain lust says:

    Loved the game myself.
    Just in case anyone didn’t know you can also buy the game DRM Free directly from the author here: http://www.mcpixel.net

    • Hodge says:

      I’m pretty sure buying from the devs will net you a Steam key as well, so that could be the way to go.

      (I bought it on Desura a few weeks back and I received a Steam key when it went live on Steam, so I’m assuming it’s the same for people who buy direct)

      • Chizu says:

        Indeed it does, I picked it up from the main site when he was doing the pay-what-you-want promotion.
        My account page includes both a Desura key and a steam key for the game.

    • Miltrivd says:

      Just to make it clear, the Steam version (and I’m assuming the Desura one as well) are DRM free. They do not use Steamworks so Steam only works as a distribution channel.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Uh, Steam is the DRM.

        • Unaco says:

          Uh, how though? A lot of games that don’t use Steamworks DRM, and are just distributed through Steam (as Miltrivd says), are downloaded in Steam, but afterwards don’t require Steam to run. You can run them through their .exe without Steam running/being installed. In this case, Steam isn’t DRM.

          How is Steam the DRM in this case? When there is no DRM on the game.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            If you buy the game directly through Steam, you’re playing the Steam version. Steam is a content delivery service that acts also acts as a DRM scheme — even if a particular game is playable without the client running in the background, you still bought the game through Steam and it is still tied to your Steam account.

            If you buy the non-Steam version of the game and you install it as a standalone product, you’re playing the version that does not require Steam in any way, shape, or form. You’re playing a version that is not tied to a particular service.

            Certainly, as you point out, some games using the Steam client can be played without Steam actually running in the background, but how many of the games sold through Steam can actually do that? 5%? 10%?

          • Unaco says:

            That isn’t DRM though… there’s nothing controlling/stopping you playing the game once you’ve downloaded it through Steam. There is nothing tieing the game to Steam once it’s installed.

            Also, the number of games that DON’T use Steam as DRM I would say is the majority… certainly much, much more than 5-10%. If they don’t have Steamworks for their DRM, they can be run fine without Steam running. Steam is just the distribution channel.

          • jrodman says:

            To caveat Unaco’s statement: a lot of the games that don’t use the steamworks-provided DRM have their own.

          • lordcooper says:

            I’m getting well fed up with this Chrome DRM :/

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Steam ties any Steam-purchased or Steam-registered game to your Steam account. That is a form of DRM. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to understand this.

            On the subject of playing account games without the client running, I’ve had only a handful (maybe 4-6) of my 100+ installed Steam games actually run without the client loaded in the background — I know this because I had a very long period spent without internet activity. I’ve got a total of 190 games registered with Steam — care to take any guesses at how many of those will run client free?

          • lordcooper says:

            No it doesn’t. You can delete Steam and still play the vast majority of games.

            E: Out of the ten games I just tried this with, it worked for eight.

          • Unaco says:

            How do you mean it ties it to your account though? It can only be downloaded via your account, yes… but that’s the same with, say, something you buy from GoG, ostensibly DRM free. I can only download my GoG games when I sign in with my GoG account. I can play them fine, without any client or being signed in anywhere… they’re not tied to the account beyond installing. It’s the same with games on Steam that aren’t ‘Steam games’.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            @ lordcooper: good for you. I haven’t had that luck, even when trying to access the games directly through the .exe files. Maybe it has something to do with Steam’s wonky offline mode, but for three months I was unable to play anything but a very small selection of Steam games I had installed on my system. If you have a solution, I’d love to hear it.

            @ Unaco: Steam games are tied to your Steam account. They can’t be transferred to another user, they can’t be played by friends or family, and Steam can legally lock access at any time to the games you payed for. That’s all DRM.

            Steam’s DRM scheme doesn’t have a fancy name like Starforce or Tages, but it’s still DRM — it enforces legal and technical limits on what you are allowed to do with your games. Please tell me that makes sense to you.

          • derbefrier says:

            it doesn’t make sense and your ignoring the parallels he drew to GOG in this instance. Steam is a DRM for some game but not for all. I had no idea until i saw this that you could do that with steam games and it sounds to me like your just being stubborn by just repeating yourself. Steam is DRM but not in all instances you said yourself you had a few games that do not require steam to be running to play them you already defeated your own argument.

          • nearly says:

            here’s a test: if someone logs into their account on your PC, can they play games tied to your account that aren’t tied to their own?

            out of my 106 games, I’ve only ever had one that would work without steam running/being launched through steam.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            @ derbefrier: You completely missed my point, and you seem to have glanced over an important part of my argument –

            “They can’t be transferred to another user, they can’t be played by friends or family (*I clarify this below*), and Steam can legally lock access at any time to the games you payed for. That’s all DRM.”

            That statement applies for every single game that is sold on Steam. It’s totally irrelevant that some games can be played without the client running. They are all tied to your personal account, and your account along with all its content must abide by Steam’s EULA. That EULA is enforced, in part, by a structured set of DRM rules. Why are you guys having such a hard time understanding this basic principle? It’s common fucking logic.

            I’m only being stubborn because I’m absolutely positively 100% correct on that one fact.

            @ nearly: I should have been more specific. Steam’s support site claims:

            Can multiple users play simultaneously on one Steam account?

            Steam does not support multiple players using one Steam account simultaneously – games associated with a Steam account are licensed for the sole use of the account holder.

            I’m not 100% sure that exact wording is also in the EULA, and I don’t know if it applies specifically to multiplayer, co-op, or single-player games (or all of them), but there it is. It doesn’t make much sense to me personally, but they make the rules.

            Anyway, I’m done wasting my time debating this. I’ve made my case.

            EDIT: Thought I’d add that I just tested a bunch of Steam games by trying to run them outside the client. Out of 15 non-Steamworks games I tested, only 3 launched. That’s 1/3rd of the games, and that’s not “most” or “many” as some of you are claiming. Care to explain why my system has such a problem with it while the rest of you get to enjoy a relatively client-free experience with your library?

          • dE says:

            It’s Steam. It hates you personally. ;)
            About transferring games, well that’s the crux with online distribution. I don’t get why you’re so homed in on Steam for that since, like many pointed out, others aren’t any better. The few that allow you to do so (Greenmangaming for example) are the exception, not the rule.

            About the whole starting outside of Steam thing, it’s highly dependant upon which games you’ve got in your library. Indies have a habit of not bothering with the optional Steam DRM. Triple A Titles generally get tears of joy in their eyes “what, another layer of DRM? gimme gimme”. Steam’s fault lies with not communicating clearly which games require the DRM and which ones don’t. Amongst all the Steam Hate brewing lately, I feel like a lot of it could be solved by a much more tidied up storepage. One that includes relevant non publisher sanctioned information.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Well, dE, the topic was originally about Steam, but I understand what you’re saying. I agree, Steam has a bad habit of ignoring crucial tidbits of information when it comes to properly documenting the games they sell. I don’t know if they simply forget to add that kind of stuff, or if the publishers have total control over what gets put on a game page. A bit of both I think.

          • Brossacks says:

            It’s still incorrect to say Steam is DRM, though. It’s distribution. If you want, you can buy McPixel, download it, put it on a disc and play it on whatever computer you want to. Also, Steam has a perfectly reliable offline mode, if it’s properly synced, which it would be if you used “Exit Steam” instead of just forcing it closed when you turned your PC off or whatever.

          • jrodman says:

            Any offline nondrm game i can transfer to others, yes. I can just zip it up and mail it over and they can play it.

            Hell, I can sell it to them by accepting money and deleting all my copies. Maybe Valve and the game maker don’t think that’s kosher, but fuck them. Let them try to fight out the case law which is on my side.

          • skittles says:

            @SkittleDiddler

            Not to go much into it because it has already been said, and you have ignored it. However yes you are right in the MAJORITY of cases. However as some have pointed out there are games that cannot be implied to have Steam DRM. Also an EULA agreement is not DRM, you can choose whether or not to obey it. Just go read GoG’s terms and conditions, it will be similar to Steam’s. There are games that can be played entirely without Steam, they can be copied as many times as you want and mailed to anyone you want. Steam is used just to download them, just like any other way of downloading a game on the internet. These games DO NOT have their .exe files tied into launching through Steam. Saying this is still DRM is ridiculous, an EULA agreement is not DRM.

            As to your library, if it primarily has major publisher games in it, then that is your problem. A majority of the big publisher titles on Steam ties into the client. The opposite is true of indie gaming, and a fair few of them won’t tie into Steam. So entirely depends on what your buying.

  4. Tanksenior says:

    Highly recommending everyone to play this game if you like this kind of humour. I was cracking up pretty much the entire way through due to its rediculousness ;D.

  5. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Also worth mentioning that there are some video filters that will make it a bit prettier on a larger screen.

    I’d also love to know what Mr. Cobbett makes of it.

  6. Axyl says:

    The Game So Great I Bought It Twice.

    Once on my sexy Android Smartphone, and then again on Steam yesterday. McPIXEL! :D

    • The Visible Man says:

      Same here. Got some weird looks on the train as I was laughing like a howler monkey everytime McPixel kicked the old man in the balls, which was often.

  7. johnson-COD says:

    I’ve weed and vomited and pushed and farted

    No wonder. I wouldn’t even try this for free.

  8. Lydia says:

    Highly overrated. I love retarded humor, but this got old fast. Getting the logo shoved in my face every 10 seconds didn’t help either.

    • zeroskill says:

      Let me guess, the game is also pretentious, right?

      • Lydia says:

        No, I wouldn’t say it is. Guess again.

        • jrodman says:

          You liked it (the ludum dare version) before it was cool? But now the full version is overplayed?

          Just doing as instructed.

          • Lydia says:

            The fuck is wrong with you two ? There’s nothing in my original post to hint at the things you said. Go replay McPixel and force yourselves to laugh again.

          • Ragnar says:

            For what it’s worth, I agree with you 100%. I didn’t find it amusing, and found the logo flashing every 5 seconds to be really annoying. After going through 8 challenges or so, I quit out and uninstalled.

            I’m glad that people who enjoy this sort of game now have it, but I personally found it to be the worst game I’ve ever played. I prefer my humour to be more like Broken Sword 1.

          • jrodman says:

            Nothing is wrong with me. You asked for another guess, so provided an equally ludicrous one as the first. Maybe you need to relax more?

  9. zebramatt says:

    SOLD.

  10. Lambchops says:

    I played the shorter version of this a while back and didn’t get it at all. Being constantly bombarded with the worst of adventure game logic in repeated 20 second bursts and then subjecting myself to this again and again?

    Not for me I’m afraid. Perhaps if I’d found it hilarious as opposed to sporadically mildly amusing I’d have stuck with it though.

    Try the free one, if the humour works buy it and if it don’t then . . . click on cow to prevent explosion?

  11. Skeletor68 says:

    I’d highly recommend watching some of Jesse Cox’s playthrough if you’re on the fence. Very funny game.

    • horsemedic says:

      I loved Jesse’s playthroughs, bought the game and turned it off forever after 15 minutes. That’s when I realized Jesse is much funnier than the game.

    • fish99 says:

      Problem with watching Jesses (awesome) playthrough (as I’ve done) is you then don’t need to play the game.

  12. valuum says:

    It’s even cheaper as an app, going to give it a whirl!

  13. phlebas says:

    Nicely illustrates the mostly-forgotten adventure game tenet of making failure interesting. Very fun in small doses.

  14. horsemedic says:

    I think if you’re the sort of person who would enjoy two hours of Terrence and Phillip cartoons without the Southpark wrapper you will love this “game.” Otherwise, no.

    Regardless, I can’t understand why anyone would want to replay it after finding the solutions. John??

  15. Wulf says:

    The thing about McPixel is that it’s heavily inspired (and I do mean that) by the old MegaCD game Switch. If you’ve played that, you know what to expect. You click things, stuff happens, sometimes that leads to a failure, sometimes that gives you your victory. In a way, it’s also like a less structured version of Windosill (which is another game that anyone interested in these sorts of experiences should play).

    It’s almost more of a toy than a game in some regards, and that’s by no means a bad thing, because it’s very entertaining. And sometimes an interactive, entertaining thing is just what you want. After a fashion, I guess it’s kind of like the Spy Fox games, for adults. (Which are fantastic to play with kids if you have any kids.)

    Nothing wrong with these at all. McPixel is a good example of this sort of interactive-toy-with-progression-thingy. Is this a genre, now? It certainly has a few games in it. Well, we could still use more, this is still very fresh.

  16. KDR_11k says:

    Well, I 100%ed it and managed to win in all bonus rounds except the nyan cow. Anyone know what that one involves?

  17. MythArcana says:

    “Obamaed my way through every level ”

    So, you basically didn’t do much of anything while Nancy Pelosi played the entire game for you? lol

  18. konondrum says:

    I’ve got to say that I’m honestly really disappointed that this is the first game green lighted by Steam. Of all the games submitted this is the first title that they choose to promote? Really? That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Also I (and I’m sure many others would agree) would appreciate it if you avoided putting political commentary in your reviews. The comment itself is just stupid, and leads to more ignorant comments by readers below.

    • jrodman says:

      Oh dear, someone got fussy over a political silly.

      That aside, they greenlighted lots of games, this was just the one that was READY TO GO.

    • Unaco says:

      “Of all the games submitted this is the first title that they choose to promote?”

      Isn’t the thing about Greenlight that it’s us, the audience on Steam, that choose which ones get promoted, and not Steam? So who are “they”? And as jrodman says, McPixel was in the first (? or 2nd) batch of games that were ‘greenlit’, but it was the first one that was ready to go, and to be released.

    • lordcooper says:

      “and leads to more ignorant comments by readers below.”

      I’m counting one.

      • konondrum says:

        The comment was neither insightful nor funny, and if you don’t think it leads to ignorant comments just look at MythArcana’s above. Seriously, on the internet it’s simply good policy to avoid making political comments on non-political blogs as they quickly devolve into complete shite.

        I’ll get off my soapbox now.

        • AngoraFish says:

          as a political junkie, i tragically agree. i’m desperately resisting getting into a partisan shit-fight as we speak…

          • Ragnar says:

            Instead of “getting into a partisan shit-fight”, may I suggest relaxing with a beer as an alternative course of action? I think you’ll find it much more enjoyable, we’ll be spared the “shit-fight”, and everyone wins.

            Well, I guess not the teetotalers. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

        • PopeJamal says:

          I thought the political comment matched the game very well: neither one of them is worth the effort put into making them. <.<

        • sinister agent says:

          I dunno about anyone else, but I certainly don’t want RPS to start censoring themselves in some futile attempt to prevent fuckwits on the internet being fuckwits on the internet.

  19. mwoody says:

    Whooooa… “Choose the drive to install to” HELLO. I knew it was hackable before, but this is awesome. Thank you Steam. Finally.

    Now response to the support request I’ve had in for six days.