Purveyors of the live action narrative adventure Wales Interactive and Good Gate Media are back with their latest release, Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? Much in the vein of the studios’ previous outing, we have a story to follow that sees several distinct paths and outcomes depending on our choice of dialogue options. Here though, there’s more to it than simply sitting back and following a story, but that comes with its downsides too.
I’ll avoid direct spoilers of course, but to properly discuss Uncle Marcus I’ll need to address some elements that might be very mild (early) spoilers, although the set-up is revealed in the games trailer. We take on the role of Abbey, seemingly the odd one out in a family of rather eccentric characters as they get together on a video call for their annual family quiz. Prior to the quiz starting, Abbey gets a call from her Uncle Marcus with a bold request; to investigate a murder. Specifically, his. He claims that at a recent family meeting (he owns a family-run business inherited from his father) that one of the six poisoned him. Abbey needs to slyly interrogate the others in order to find the poison used, find the killer, and save Marcus.
It’s a fun set-up, and is treated with just the right amount of absurdity in its delivery. The six family members are all pretty stereotypical, but not without their charms. Lottie is your run of the mill TikTok famous-style young adult, while Bradley is the angsty teen dressed in black and obsessed with death, for example. My favourite was Auntie June – her no fucks given way of talking to the others had me laughing out loud more often than not. Each of the six – including the dozy Nan, overbearing Mum and Eco-warrior Toby – fill a specific role in the story, though each one could very well be guilty of trying to kill Marcus. The performances are just the right side of campy too, but there were a few times (mainly with Toby and Uncle Marcus) where things felt a little too much like I’m Acting. Marcus’ death rattles and wails as the poison slowly takes hold are quite something indeed.
The aim then is to slyly get the family to talk about the meeting and any odd behaviour they may have seen without raising suspicion. This isn’t quite as tactical as it might seem though, and for me is where the game gets let down.
You see, as part of the quiz the family take turns in being the question master per round while the remaining six split of into teams of two. As Abbey, we get to pick from three choices of partner each round. This’ll then affect what evidence we can uncover. However, getting said evidence is a case of picking the correct dialogue choices in that round, which is not always straight forward. For example, as the questions are read Abbey and her partner will discuss the answer between them. But to get them to divulge the information we actually need, we need to decide whether to answer the quiz question right or wrong, whatever will get them talking afterwards.
There’s not really much rhyme or reason to picking the right choice so for the first few plays it’s a case of trying our luck. It’s also clear that we’re unable to solve the mystery on a single playthrough. Any evidence gained is able to be carried over to the next game but in order to accuse someone of poisoning Marcus we need to gather a certain amount of evidence against them. Which means I ended up taking notes on who I picked for each round, what dialogue options I chose, and what it got me. After half a dozen goes round I began to cool on what had until now been an enjoyable campy murder mystery as I wasn’t investigating so much as ticking off check boxes. What I enjoy about these live action FMV titles from Wales Interactive is following a story through, making tough choices and seeing where it takes me. Here, I was just cycling through the same scenes methodically picking the options I hoped would gather me a new scrap of evidence. A full run through is quite short at least – under an hour on first shot, then a matter of 30 mins or less once we know what we’re looking for – but I just found myself not really getting invested in the story the more times I had to go through the motions.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story and it’s multiple permutations, just that whereas something like The Complex had me hooked from start to finish on multiple playthroughs thanks to an excellent story and many interesting branching paths, here I just wanted to skip the scenes to the next choice to hopefully unlock the next bit that might get me to a new ending or accusation. It was always nice to finally unlock a new scene and gather a bit more exposition though, and for what it’s worth there are some surprising revelations to look out for.
All in all, I came away from Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? cooler than I had hoped. The campy story is fun at first, but the amount of repetition and the calculating nature of trying to gather a new bit of evidence rather than just following a well written and performed story began to grate on me after a while. Fans of the Wales Interactive’s other work should still check it out, and there’s fun to be had trying to gather new evidence, but I’d still point to something like The Complex as a prime example of how great this genre can be.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.