Your family is bat-shit crazy, you’re guilted into spending time with them, and the only relative you like is your uncle Marcus. And now one of them has gone and poisoned him. Shit.
That’s basically the set up to Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus?, the latest live-action FMV game to come from Wales Interactive and Good Gate Media. After the disappointing Bloodshore, which released last November, this feels like a return to form for Good Gate Media. Sure, it’s not perfect, and it has more than its fair share of hammy moments (what FMV doesn’t?), but ultimately it’s hard not to get invested in finding out which of your relatives really did try to kill your favourite uncle.
You play the game as Abigail, a 20-something solicitor and just about the only down-to-earth member of the family. Her fame-hungry influencer sister is unbearable, and it’s clear her mother doesn’t care about her – or anyone but herself – the way that she should. As for her cousins, they couldn’t be more different: one’s obsessed with death and darkness, and the other is on some sort of humanitarian mission. And the least we say about her awful, abrasive Aunt June, the better. At least Nan seems pleasant – or is her sweet innocence simply an act?
Since it’s Abigail’s mother’s birthday, she’s gathered the family together for an online quiz. Ah, the family Zoom quiz; a ‘favourite’ of many during lockdown. (To note, Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? doesn’t make any narrative references to the pandemic, but, like last year’s Night Book, it’s quite likely that its setup is a logistical choice that made filming and development easier during a time when Covid restrictions were still in place.) But just before Abigail joins the quiz, she gets a phone call from her uncle Marcus. He’s been poisoned. He’s got hours to live. And it’s up to her to find out who did it. Figure out what type of poison it was, and there’s a chance he can be saved with an antidote.
And so, Abigail is now in a tricky position. How can she play through the family quiz and try to gleam information without raising suspicions? For much of Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? you’ll simply be watching the events unfold. But you’ll have to make regular 50/50 choices; perhaps it’ll be what family member you want to team up with in the quiz, or what conversation topic to push them on. Make the right choices, and you’ll gather clues that might point you towards the person who slipped Marcus the poison.
The catch is, though, you can only accuse someone if you have enough evidence. You can’t just make a wild accusation, even if you have a hunch. Your mileage may vary, but it wasn’t until our fourth playthrough of the game that we had enough evidence on one person to accuse them. But it was the wrong person. So back to square one.
One playthrough of Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? takes less than an hour, and this is absolutely designed with multiple – so many multiple – playthroughs in mind. It doesn’t feel too much like a grind, though, because you can skip through (most) conversations you’ve already heard, and chatting with new family members reveals new insights and useful titbits of information. And all collected evidence mounts up from each playthrough, so you don’t have to somehow figure out how to collect it all in one go.
It does somehow undermine the premise of the game, though. Abigail supposedly has one family quiz session to figure out what happened to Uncle Marcus. But of course, on subsequent playthroughs, she’s going in with a plethora of information she shouldn’t already know. It ruins the suspension of disbelief a bit. But then again, it is a game, not a movie, so ultimately it doesn’t matter.
The story that Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? tells is small in scope, but it’s presented in such a way that it manages to get its claws in you quickly. You never see outside of these family members’ webcams, but that’s all that’s needed here. Everyone’s performance is great – if not a little OTT at times, but that’s typical for the FMV genre – and these characters are (mostly) believable. If a character is so unlikeable it makes your skin crawl, you’re doing something right. Screw you, Aunt June. The only downside is that it ends too abruptly; there are multiple endings, but most of them don’t actually feel like any sort of ending at all. The game expects you to play again, but one playthrough should at least wrap up nicely enough that it can exist as a standalone experience. That just isn’t the case here.
Still, it’s not the end of the world because, in all likelihood, you’ll be very keen to jump straight back in. A good old-fashioned ‘whodunnit’ mystery is always fun, and the modern twist here works very well. Finding out a new piece of compelling evidence feels good (even if you might get a little bit bored of hearing different people tell you the same stories in the process), and because each playthrough is so short, you can easily get through two or three in one sitting.
It may take you several playthroughs to discover who did, in fact, press mute on Uncle Marcus. But hopefully you’ll be engaged enough to keep playing until you find out. Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? feels like a return to form for Good Gate Media. It’s fun, silly and entertaining – and even when the acting is a bit hammy, it’s good enough that it’ll keep you watching. It’s more fun than an actual Zoom family quiz, that’s for sure.
Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? review – GameSpew’s score