Games of 2012: McPixel

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2012 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. As I did last year, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2012 posts.


I spoke of “anti-gaming” as a concept earlier in the month when praising Frog Fractions. It’s a growing genre where antagonizing the player – or the gaming industry itself – is the fun. And no game did that better this year than McPixel.

McPixel is a point-and-click adventure game without the adventure. A level starts, 20 seconds appears on the clock. You know there’s a bomb *somewhere* on the screen. Clicking on something interacts with it – picking it up, manipulating it, or trying to kick it in the genitals. Your goal: prevent the level from exploding.

Sometimes it’s obvious. The bomb is exposed, you pee on it, the fuse goes out.

Other times, it’s not. You’re in a volcano with a lady, a cow, an oversized bone, and a river of lava that says “INSERT VIRGIN” next to it. Pick up the lady and throw her in the lava? Volcano explodes. Pick up the bone and insert it into the cow? The cow loves you, and the volcano explodes. Throw the bone in the lava? Volcano explodes. The correct answer: just click the lava. You jump in, and the volcano is calmed.

The game is an endless trial-and-error experiment; screwing up a level doesn’t penalize you, it just takes you on to the next in the series of 5 that you haven’t completed. But to fully complete the game, you don’t just need to find the right solution – you need to see all the wrong ones, too. Completing all the possible actions across the three rounds in each level unlocks a bonus set of levels. The humor takes ridiculous flights of fancy, and is often crudely animated, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t snickering the entire game.

The biggest joke of all comes when you unlock the final round. I don’t want to spoil it – because after you’ve played through something like 80 levels, you start to think you’re getting the hang of how the game thinks and acts. And when you see that last level, you can’t help but burst out into a full laugh. It’s that absurd.

For gamers who have lived through the rise, fall, and rise again of point-and-click adventures, the game is a reminder of the futility of the medium – clicking blindly, trying everything in the room, hoping something leads you to the solution. Most everything in McPixel is a solution – they’re just not all the right one.

Highly recommended for people who appreciate adventure games and have a sense of humor similar to mine.

McPixel is available on iOS, Android, Windows, OS X, and Linux. My experiences were with the iPad version.


Games of 2011: Gemini Rue

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2011 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. Instead of my usual end-of-year game recommendations, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2011 posts.

I’ve always been a big adventure game fan. The first serious PC games I ever dove into (Maniac Mansion, King’s Quest I and II, Space Quest III) all fell into that genre. I probably had more Sierra 5.25″ floppy disk sleeves than plain white ones.

There’s been a big resurgence in the genre as of late – which has generally been great. I hedge that with “generally” because there’s a common theme through nearly every adventure game series that has reappeared that didn’t used to be the case. Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Back To The Future, Hector, and Strongbad[1. I realize I’m probably picking on Telltale here, but seeing as they’re mostly the ones doing this revival, I’m going to allow it.] all are humor-focused games. What I’ve missed are the adventure games where the focus is storytelling, and narrative, rather than puns.

It probably comes as no surprise that the first time I fired up Gemini Rue and watched the opening – a man only referred to by his captors as “Delta-Six” has his memory erased, and seemingly not for the first time – I let out a huge sigh of relief.

Gemini Rue is one of those games that I haven’t spent enough time with yet. I have only made it through the first five chapters or so. But what I’ve seen so far reminds me so much of those old Sierra titles – the pacing, the atmosphere, the interface design. It’s a welcome reminder of some of my gaming roots.

People who fondly remember Sierra’s best work should give this one a look.

Gemini Rue is available for Windows.

Endured Narrated

The Walk To Work

7:34 - Starting My Walk

I promised myself I would do it at least once. Yes, this morning I left bright (!) and early at 7:30 to walk to my office on the Upper East Side.

7:41 - Steinway

After getting over the GCP, I cut down Steinway Street, which was thankfully empty and uncrowded. It’s also full of odd businesses, so that didn’t hurt either.

8:14 - Ruth

Ruth from work was my walking buddy, which made the commute considerably more pleasant and enjoyable.

Once we hit Northern Boulevard, we got asked by a lot of desperate drivers if we needed a ride. It was tempting, but the truth is, we were moving faster than they were.

8:31 - Bikes and Peds Only

Getting from my house to the entrance of the pedestrian walkway for the bridge only took an hour, which is about what I expected, maybe even a little better.

8:43 - Roosevelt Island

Once on the bridge, there were some fantastic photo opportunities, particular once you hit Roosevelt Island. Just based on the pictures I pulled out today, I’m planning on doing the walk again sometime when it’s warmer out.

8:49 - Crammed Tram

The Roosevelt Island Tram made an appearance just as I hit a fenceless patch of the bridge, so I lucked out with a picture. I’ve taken the tram before, and on the right day, it can be downright pleasant. But given the volume of people in there, I’m rather glad I didn’t try today. As Janelle pointed out, “not good for claustrophobics with fears of heights…”

The total walk took about 1:40, which was right around my estimate. My legs are okay (foot still hurts a little, but Advil has saved the day), my brain has returned to normal, and I’m almost – *almost* – looking forward to the walk home. Probably will take a different route, though.

(If you’d like to see the few more pictures of the walk, just check my photos tagged with “walktowork”.)