Review: MacGyver: Deadly Descent

By Sean Clancy 09 Jun 2014 0
The ultimate MacGyvering: Mac in the game has a copy of the game. The ultimate MacGyvering: Mac in the game has a copy of the game.

MacGyver makes for a solid role-model. I say this as someone who a) has never watched an episode of the series, or even a clip of the undoubtedly explosion-filled introduction, b) probably never will, and yet, c) can still describe the setup for several different installments of a one-joke serial SNL sketch that exclusively lampoons the Richard Dean Anderson vehicle (a vehicle which had aired its last episode roughly fifteen years earlier).

But I get it. Science background, thrifty, aversion to guns, calm under pressure, etc. More like that, please, and maybe a little less prime time murder-porn. MacGyver: Deadly Descent is a fittingly bloodless outing which tasks Mac with rescuing a team of researchers trapped by their own security system in an increasingly air-starved laboratory. Which is to say they're trapped by an odd collection of somewhat familiar puzzle games. Guess you should have played more Pipe Mania, nerds! HA! Heh. Oh hell they're turning blue...

Really though, it is just a bunch of different puzzle games. Six by my count, spread over the handful of stages that Deadly Descent segments Mac's tale into, with our hero plowing through the compromised D.A.W.N. facility (on behalf of... rescue services? police? Lassie?) and circumventing obstacles with uncharacteristically straightforward solutions.

The gag is that, like, the elevator shaft has a laser grid protecting it, so you need to play the light-redirection game Laser Quest and use mirrors and hacked-together optics in order to redirect a laser beam onto a series of targets. Or, later, some plumbing bursts, and you need to play Pipe Fitter and rotate a series of pipes and water pumps to get the appropriately colored liquids (bleh) into matching receptacles (you can also mix colors together, so buckle up I guess). Chemical Reaction is a matching game where you drag colored, weighted blocks of liquid explosives together, because you're defusing one of those chemical bombs.

It's like helping a friend move in with Tron. It's like helping a friend move in with Tron.

About half the puzzles here get these justifying star turns, but still show up later, when some new danger is ostensibly meant to be the focus. “Mac, that room is filling with water fast! Quick, redirect that laser to the panel over there!” “Mac, those beams will cut you in half! Get some pink goo into that bucket!” “Mac, is that a chemical bomb?!?! YOU NEED TO SOLVE THIS NEWSPAPER BRIDGE COLUMN.” The remaining games are all vaguely electronics-themed, and fit (boringly) anywhere. Down to the Wire is your connect the dots puzzle, where you need to figure out how to draw unbroken connections between a series of colored nodes on a grid. Direct Current is another laser puzzle, where you're given a bunch of pieces connected to each other by a string of energy, with the goal to, again, pass this beam over all the targets on the field. Lockout is all about not blocking yourself off—you need to drag yet more colored blocks into their matching plugs, but once a block is slotted it stays there and can't be moved. So the trick is: just do it in the right order, MacGyver. Jeez.

If MacGyver: Deadly Descent were just an oddly-named collection of puzzles, and not, you know, a MacGyver game, its by-the-book puzzling wouldn't be an issue. Sure, the game's not particularly original, and none of its takes on these basically classic puzzle variants are all that cunning, but they work as intended. The most annoying element here is the 3D tilt whenever you rotate your chosen playing device. It doesn't illuminate anything or make solving a puzzle easier, and it forces you to hold your phone or tablet unnaturally still lest the whole thing bug-out and go Dutch angle on you, but, hey, DIMENSIONALITY Y'ALL.

Going to have to assume that's meant to belittle me, Mac's handler. So thanks for that. Going to have to assume that's meant to belittle me, Mac's handler. So thanks for that.

Thing is, this is a MacGyver game, and that silly, silly premise carries a certain responsibility with it, one apparent even to those who've never felt the thrill of watching a man defuse a nuclear warhead with a paperclip and an empty canister of Easy Cheese. (Close to an actual episode? Just a little?) Deadly Descent will tell you--through some pretty sloppy comics-style cutscenes--that Mac is actually re-appropriating a pair of binoculars (“binocs”) all clever-like when you're bending beams in Laser Quest, but to be honest the MacGyvering has already been done by the time the player steps in. The game never really puts you in the undoubtedly steel-toed shoes of the sort of hero who can cobble together a brilliant escape from a pile of junk. (Hell, shouldn't this have been a point-and-click?)

Thrown together is the overriding vibe here. Like the most dire of MacGyver hacks, Deadly Descent is a serviceable, taped together hodge-podge that accomplishes what it sets out to do—namely: get people to talk about MacGyver again, at any cost. Fans of the show will get less out of this than fans of puzzle games, though even the latter will find that MacGyver: Deadly Descent is only a fleeting challenge (made easier still by the fact that you only need to complete most of the puzzles in a stage in order to advance). A heavily qualified “technical success,” to be sure. And nary a roll of duct tape to be found. That's a “MacGyver thing.” Apparently.

MacGyver: Deadly Descent was played on a Speak & Spell wired up to a graphing calculator 3rd generation iPad for this review.

Review: MacGyver: Deadly Descent

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