An enthralling and deeply replayable interactive movie, Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus? is one of the best FMV games in years. The Finger Guns Review.
The partnership between Good Gate Media and Wales Interactive has produced some very interesting FMV games over the past few years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when most film production stalled until it was safe to resume, these creatives found inventive ways to continue their craft. They managed to write, design and shoot FMV games remotely so that the cast and team didn’t have to be in the same place at the same time. That resulted in FMV games like Five Dates and Night Book, titles that tell seamless stories despite being pieced together from footage provided remotely. The latest (and in my opinion, greatest) of these pandemic productions is ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus’. A whodunit styled mystery, this game features some of the strongest characters in an FMV game for years portrayed through a family dynamic that might feel deeply relatable to many.
The Man In The Chat Window
In Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus? you guide the decisions of a character called Abby, played by Abigail Hardingham (Nina Forever, The Missing). It’s Abby’s mum’s birthday and as is an annual tradition on this day, dear Mumsie is hosting a quiz. This year, it’s being hosted on a Zoom/Teams-like call with everyone dialling in from their own location.
The entire game is presented like a recording of Abby’s computer screen, including her own camera and the quiz app the family are using. Much like all of Good Gate Media’s prior FMV titles, dialogue choices pop up along the bottom of the screen dozens of times during a playthrough. Each choice has ramifications which will direct the story along unique narrative branches. These branches lead to a number of different endings to the game.
FMV – Full Motion Victimology
Abby is settling down to join the quiz when she gets a call from her favourite relative and maligned outcast of the family, her Uncle Marcus (played by Andy Buckley [The Office, Odd Mom Out]). He sets the scene: A week prior to this quiz, the entire family had gathered for a meeting, an event which Abby was unable to attend. During that meeting, he was poisoned. He doesn’t know how or by whom, but if he’s going to survive, he’s going to need Abby’s help.
Marcus still has a chance to survive this ordeal but he needs to know what type of poison he was given. He also wants to know which member of the family is trying to kill him off and why. He asks Abby to attend the quiz and covertly question the family to try to find answers. Not left with much of a choice, Abby agrees. She’s the only one Marcus can trust.
Thus begins the dance at the centre of Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus as Abby attempts to play along with the quiz while prying out as much information as possible in order to help her Uncle. I’ll admit, the initial set up felt outlandish and awkward on my first play through of the game, but the context to Uncle Marcus’ plight becomes very clear as soon as the quiz begins.
The Imperfect Family
You see, Abby’s family are among the most dysfunction groups of characters I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Not just that, they’re all individually some of the most annoying human beings imaginable. Oh, and they all have them have at least a mild dislike for Uncle Marcus. When Marcus says “Abby, you’re the only one I can trust”, he wasn’t kidding. Almost all of these characters feel capable of nefarious deeds.
While that might sound like a frustrating experience, it’s all done in an intentional, tongue in cheek way. Every character in ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus’ is a well scripted caricature of a familiar family trope (and probably a member of your own tribe) with their worst aspects dialled up to 11. Abby’s Mum Felicity, played by Gabrielle Glaister (Coronation Street, Family Affairs) is the overbearing matriarch figure that’s impossible to please. Abby’s Aunty June, played by Susannah Doyle (Black Mirror, Drop The Dead Donkey), is a lush with a daggered wit that’s as vicious as it is funny. Al Weaver (The Complex, Grantchester) plays holier-than-thou cousin Toby who (and I genuinely hate this term so that fact that I’m using it now demonstrates how detestable the character is) ‘virtue-signals’ at every opportunity. Abby’s other cousin Bradley, played by Robbie Kay (Once Upon A Time, Heroes Reborn), is a happiness vampire and has an unhealthy obsession with morbid topics like serial killers. Georgia Small (Five Dates, Bloodshore) plays the self obsessed millennial sister Lottie whose own self importance is only outweighed by her social media following. Finally we have Nan, played by Eileen Davies (Coronation Street, Peterloo), who’s lovely but doesn’t appear to know what’s going on half the time.
Spending time with this family of characters feels like walking into a lion’s den. There’s a constant air of constrained resentment between them and a frisson of energy as they throw veiled digs at one another. It never goes off the rails though. They can be polite and even nice when they want to be. To put it plainly, it feels like any family gathering I’ve ever been too. Abby as a character acts as an excellent proxy for the character. She doesn’t have a particularly strong personality which allows the player to dictate her decisions without it feeling counter the the character’s beliefs.
The cast of actors do an excellent job of bringing these unlikable characters to life in ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’. Gabrielle Glaister carries herself with a cold poise that makes every undercutting comment all the more biting. Never without a glass of wine in her hand, Doyle plays the drunk aunt to perfection – but hidden in the game’s progression is a moment of real sincerity and heart where she brings an incredible amount of depth to the character. I genuinely got chills. Al Weaver brings a smarmy energy to his character with little touches that do so much (like saying “yeah” after every other sentence) while painting the broad strokes with all of the jumped up energy of someone who hasn’t ever managed to give to a charity without posting about it on Facebook. Georgia Small nails the tone and movement of a self obsessed social media addict, so much so that I sometimes felt like I’d accidentally open up my wife’s Instagram stories. Robbie Kay’s performance is mostly restrained – intentionally so. He manages to get a lot out of a well timed shrug. When he finally gets let off the leash (in undoubtedly the most shocking moment of the entire game) he does exceptionally well. Eileen Davies’ grandmotherly portrayal is full of warmth, caring and concern. Andy Buckley’s portrayal of Marcus sets the tone for the entire game. He does comedy – like when he’s hallucinating because of the poison – as well as he does his more dramatic moments. While some of Buckley’s scenes have a level of cheesiness that FMV titles have come to embrace, it’s obvious that the actor is having an absolute blast doing this role so it doesn’t feel at all misplaced. As I’ve previously mentioned, Abigail Hardingham’s role as the player-character is a light one but she does gets moments in the spotlight that she absolutely nails.
What I find most impressive is the editing and the acting ability here. I might be being presumptuous here but I don’t think the actors were actually on a Zoom/Teams call when creating their content. I think they were all simply talking to a camera. It’s pretty miraculous how well it has been performed and put together to make every conversation feel natural. Or however natural a video call can be, I guess.
So… Who did it?
The quality acting and script in ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’ is matched by a well defined structure. Each run at the game is broken down into 3 quiz rounds, each of which is hosted by a different character, followed by a finale. For each quiz round, you’ll get to choose a team mate in which to work with/covertly question about Marcus. Questions get asked and you’ll have the opportunity to answer them. Your answers to these are more important than just winning a quiz though. None of the characters are going to outwardly confess to poisoning their uncle without some cajoling – but if you impress them enough, they will tell you important snippets of information about the other characters. Maybe a character was acting strangely at the family meeting. Maybe they said something strangely before it. They’re all willing to tell on their fellow family members if you butter them up enough.
The snippets of info gathered about the family members and the events of the family meeting become items of evidence. This is all held together in the pause menu where a case is built against every single character. Collect enough of this and a motive and a method of poisoning starts to take shape. Once you’ve hit a particular threshold of evidence, you can then accuse that character of poisoning Marcus. This results in a crescendo finish where you’ll find out if you picked the right culprit or not. It’s always the same person on every run, but your path to get there will likely have you pointing the finger at everyone along the way.
A Cycle of Violence
That’s because evidence gathered in each play through of ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’ can be carried over into every subsequent run. Details you learn in one run can be used to open up new narrative corridors on the next. This makes for a deeply replayable title as you gradually build up a case against everyone. Witnessing every end is incredibly worthwhile.
I’ve been critical in the past of the amount of the same content you see over and over in some of the Good Gate Media/Wales Interactive FMV games. ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’ fixes this issue. Don’t get me wrong – there are some unescapable scenes you’ll see again and again no matter how many times you play the game. For the most part though, scenes you’ve seen before can be skipped with a click of R1, even if you reached that scene by choosing something new in a preceding scene. This works to keep the game fresh for the 4-5 hours it’ll take to see everything this game has to offer.
Who’d Press Mute On Uncle Marcus?
I’m a fan of FMV and interactive movie games. I enjoy them and play a surprisingly large number of them. That said – I can say with utmost certainty, ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’ is the best one I’ve played in a long, long time. I usually play these FMV games sat quietly on my couch. WPMOUM? had me shouting at the TV. After particular lines of dialogue, I actually said “Oh, f**k off” out loud to myself. During one ending, both my wife and I were left open mouthed at what had just happened before breaking out into a fit of schadenfreude powered laughter. I have never been as animated during an FMV game as I have been with ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’.
That’s primarily because this title presents a dislikeable cast of characters, some of which might be hilariously similar to people you know in real life, that’re just begging to get their just deserts. That’s exactly what you’ll see if you explore everything this game has to offer.
That’s all interspersed with comedy right out of the pandemic era that we can all relate too. Someone accidentally popping on a comedy filter while trying to be serious is as funny in this game as it is in real life. And of course Nan just can’t deal with the technology so for the first few moments of the quiz, all you can see is the top of her forehead. As a package, ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’ is brilliant.
One of the best FMV games to be released in years, ‘Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus?’ is a brilliant combination of a relatable, oddball comedy and a whodunit mystery drama. The acting is superb, the script and editing is tight, it’s deeply replayable and it manages to balance its tone to take you on a really cathartic journey.
Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus? is launching on PlayStation 4 (review platform), PC, Xbox One, Switch, iOS and Android on 18th March.
Developer: Good Gate Media
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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