Who dares to mute corporate?
Masks. Social Distancing. Zoom meetings. All are commonplace now thanks to that global pandemic we are all living through. Another gone but not forgotten addition to our daily lives is that of the family “virtual quiz”. For many, this may have been the height of entertainment during months of isolation. To others, it could well be preferable to going round to hear what your Nan had for tea (you can always mute that annoying cousin for another), but for Wales Interactive, it serves as the backdrop for the latest in the studios’ FMV series of games.
Release Date: March 18th, 2022
Developer: Wales Interactive, Good Gate Media
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Availability: PSN, Microsoft Store, Steam, Nintendo eShop, Android, iOS
If you have played any of Wales Interactive’s previous entries you will know what to expect here. Essentially, “Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus?” has the story play out in a series of cutscenes, in which you will be presented with a choice. The story then varies depending on whatever decision you make, branching off in any number of ways and revealing new evidence as you mix and match your way to each outcome. Think like those old “Choose your own adventure” books, or more recently, Netflix’s Bandersnatch.
In fact, “Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus?” has more in common with a film or TV show than an actual game. The branching nature of the story means you can end up with any number of different endings, although certain key moments happen each time in order to keep the story moving along. This is an understandable concession, but it does shatter the illusion of choice a little, especially on repeat playthroughs.
The set-up to the story is all laid out before you within the first 5 minutes. Someone has poisoned your favourite Uncle during the last family meeting, and he has contacted you privately to try and suss out who the guilty party is. No sooner has he given you the details than the dysfunctional family quiz night kicks off, and the game begins.
You are then tasked with finding out who poisoned your uncle by talking to each family member in turn. As it is a family quiz, the call is split into rounds, with one family member asking the questions with all the others paired off to answer them. Each round you have a choice of 3 family members to pair off with, and it is here where the main decisions are made.
During each round you get to question whoever you are paired alongside. Do you praise your narcissistic Mum on her acting ability, or compliment your alcoholic aunt? Your decisions will alter what they reveal to you, and thus your ability to solve the crime your uncle has tasked you with.
Each family member is fully acted, with each personality coming through nicely through their interactions with you, as Abby, alongside the way they talk and act with each other. As you would expect from a game that feels like a film there is a lot of sitting around doing nothing, so if long cutscenes bore you I can see how a game like this would very easily feel like a turn-off.
The setting of a virtual quiz works well, with the rounds serving as a good excuse to interview different members of the family. Each character addresses the camera as they would in a virtual meeting, and the story is interesting enough to play through. For me, where it all falls down is in how it tracks the evidence you collect, as it doesn’t pinpoint who said what and when. This is a huge pain when it comes to avoiding repetition on subsequent play throughs, as many will be needed in order to get to the bottom of it all.
Thankfully “Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus?” has a relatively short run time. I was able to complete my first run through in about 45 minutes, with each subsequent run being slightly quicker thanks to the ability to skip some cutscenes. This is a welcome addition, as you will need to play the game more than once in order to explore every dialogue option, but for whatever reason not every cutscene can be skipped.
This inconsistency is a minor drawback, but an annoying one nonetheless. Sitting down to play and having to endure the same footage, however short, feels pointless, especially when nothing new is added or revealed. I am onto my 6th or 7th play-through and already my patience is wearing thin. I know what the poison was (more a lucky guess than any detective work on my part), but I have yet to work out who the would-be killer is, and at this point, I am more likely to quit than press on, which is due largely to having to sit through the same footage over and over again.
Another drawback is in how the game tracks what you have uncovered already. Evidence you have acquired through talking to each family member does accumulate over subsequent attempts so you aren’t starting from scratch each time, but what it does fail to do is track who said what and when. This makes things incredibly tricky later on, as unless you have tracked each decision you made from the start you are more than likely to repeat earlier decisions only to have to endure the same conversations again and again. By the time I started tracking my decisions, it was too late and I inevitably ended up repeating choices I had already made, with only a few cutscenes skippable in order to speed the process along.
I am now at the stage where this is more frustrating than anything else. Adding to that is one crucial scene towards the end of the game is skippable, but doing so forces a choice on you which immediately ends the game. The amount of times I have skipped that scene only to prematurely end my run has been more than I would care to admit.
Should you avoid falling into this trap, and provided you have collected enough evidence, by the end of the game you will be able to accuse one of your family members of the crime. Each decision you have made has built up to this point, but regardless of who you think is guilty you can only accuse those providing you have acquired enough evidence to back it up.
This is a simple enough system to understand, but it does feel massively designed around repeated play throughs, and although I understand why this is, I don’t necessarily like it. The need to stretch the experience out and make us players feel like we got our money’s worth is often a noble cause, but for me the repetitive nature here calls time on the experience long before the story itself has come to any real conclusion, and that does feel like a huge shame.
With a little tweaking, Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? could well last much longer than it’s 45 minute completion time. If it had a better system for tracking conversation options, alongside a refined system for skipping cutscenes, I know I would continue playing until I had explored every avenue and exhausted every dialogue option in order to gather enough evidence to accuse all members of the family. As it stands, I am unlikely to return, and Marcus will forever remain muted. Sorry Marcus.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: Xbox Series X|S
Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus?Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus?
- Decent story, with a satisfying twist on the whodunnit tale
- Immersive experience which does feel like you are sitting in on a dysfunctional family Zoom meeting
- Why wouldn't you want to save David Wallace, the saviour of Dunder Mifflin?
- Repetitive cutscenes annoy long before the story concludes
- Evidence tracker doesn't help making choices on subsequent play throughs, requiring you to track your choices to avoid repeating yourself
- Requires very little input from you as a player - more akin to a film than a game