In the few short years since games such as Gone Home and Dear Esther have come into vogue, we have learned a lot about the limits of an interactive experience. There are quite a few people out there who would rather corral them into an all new category, a thought that might gain some traction if VR takes off and more and more of these theme park rides end up in circulation. For me personally, I’ve found that these types of games are at their best when they’re not imitating life, but rather laughing at it. Jazzpunk, The Stanley Parable, and several large chunks of Portal 2 are examples of excellent comedic works that are explored rather than played, but their experiences are still highly defined by what the player does. These games wring jokes out of interactivity itself, attempting to predict what a player will do only to make them look like fools or mess with their expectations.
Sadly, there are few other known examples of this type of work, as they do require a different type of writing talent than what game developers have been known for over the decades. I’m happy to report that there is at least one more game of this type that has emerged, and that game is known as MacGuffin. Created by a small French team, the game takes the player on a grand tour of a nuclear facility with a mission to steal a loosely defined document that Richard Nixon left there when he quit the company. Nixon, who is voiced by a Microsoft Sam derivative, and I believe is actually supposed to be the former US president, speaks to you through your cell phone and tries to point you in the right direction, but his efforts prove fruitless before too long. The entire journey is surrealistic and loony, defying the laws of physics and reason at every turn.
The game does show its indie roots when it comes to graphics and overall length, but makes up for it with the sheer number of goofs. I’m the sort of player who waited for minutes and minutes for Wheatley to run out of annoyed dialogue before stepping through a door, so I was pleased to discover that Nixon had similar moments throughout MacGuffin. There are even points where you can drive him a bit crazy, causing him to question the overall goal of the game and what his true role in it is. The whole game feels like an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a game where you’re never quite on board with what is being thrown at you in any given moment, but just going with it brings you the best results.
Considering the obvious scale that the developers were working with, I was continuously impressed by the variety of environments that were presented, as well as the multitude of nonsensical ways that you traveled from one place to the other. Walls shifting, fake doors falling ahead of you, elevators traveling every which way but up, even the basic traversal in MacGuffin is off the wall insane. You eventually do get wise to some of the game’s tricks if you think about it hard enough, but that would probably be against the MacGuffin spirit.
Some people like to binge on YouTube videos or watch reality shows to turn their brain off. I’m a bit different, and surrealist fever dreams like MacGuffin are where I do my relaxing. The game can easily be run through in one sitting, but it’s a memorable little jaunt through a madman’s fantasy that is certainly worth the trip. I found the game through a recent Greenlight bundle, as did many others on their Greenlight page, but it still hasn’t cracked through the voting barrier just yet. If you want to pick it up now, MacGuffin is currently for sale for $3 on itch.io, and as long as you set your expectations correctly for that price point, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in what you find.
Do you know a game that’s in Greenlight that you think we should take a look at? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below!