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Published 18.03.2022 00:00
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Who Muted Uncle Marcus? review

Wales Interactive have firmly established themselves as some of the most prolific FMV developers out there, putting out three titles on the App Store last year and already ushering in an absurd virtual party-turned-murder-investigation with Who Muted Uncle Marcus? in early 2022. This game puts you in the shoes of Abby as she grills her eccentric relatives after a family meeting where a deadly plot unfolded. Despite a concept that should set the stage for a fun locked-door mystery, Who Muted Uncle Marcus? feels forced and arbitrary at almost every turn.

Family farce

Who Muted Uncle Marcus? is a game that takes place over a virtual meeting in celebration of Abby's mother's birthday. The game quickly establishes that this kind of call is a family tradition and that it is also conducted in the format of a quiz game, with each family member taking turns to host a round of questions while the others compete for points.

As Abby prepares for this call, she gets another from the black sheep of the family: Uncle Marcus. Marcus calls to tell Abby that he has been poisoned and that the culprit has to be someone in the family. This sets you off on an adventure where you not only try to navigate the quiz game and Abby's family drama, but also try to identify the killer and discover how to prevent Marcus from dying.

Quiz or question?

Like most conventional FMV games, Who Muted Uncle Marcus? presents you, the player, with video clips of all of this action playing out with real-life actors. The action only somewhat pauses (or actually pauses if you use the "Streamer Mode" game option) when you--as Abby--can make a choice about how to proceed forward. For the vast majority of this game, your choices revolve around who you want Abby to pair up for certain quiz rounds with and whether or not you want to try and play the family quiz or shift the conversation toward gathering information about the family meeting that led to Marcus's poisoning.

By the end of the game, you get the chance to accuse certain family members of doing the foul deed, provided you've gathered enough evidence to make a case against them. Then you are treated to one of the game's many endings before being invited to play the game again to try gathering new evidence to unlock other endings.

Abitrary arbitration

Right from the outset of Who Muted Uncle Marcus?, it feels like the creators are not confident in their setup. The script has Uncle Marcus comment on the weird rules of the quiz game (which are clearly the way they are so that you can rotate between people to talk to), and the choices in the game don't align with any particular logic to allow you to actually play detective like you might expect. As a result, the whole thing feels like an arduous and random choose-your-own adventure as opposed to an adventure that asks you to investigate or clue-in on certain aspects of character behavior.

After my second playthrough of the game, I realized that I didn't really care at that point who tried to kill Uncle Marcus. The process of revisiting conversations to unlock new evidence from Abby's cartoonishly horrible family would have been a big ask even if there was a logic to intuit about how to get each character to spill the beans. Instead, some unlocks come by purposely getting certain quiz answers incorrect or not even trying to ask about the family meeting at all. There are also some logic holes I discovered where certain clips talk about information that you may not have actually discovered yet. This all gets exacerbated by the frustrating way in which a clip-skipping system works on repeat playthroughs (which only allows you to pass by certain sections of the game in a blink but makes you watch other segments in their entirety for reasons that don't make a ton of sense).

The bottom line

The concept for Who Muted Uncle Marcus? is fun and full of intrigue, but all that feels squandered when you don't actually feel like you're in control of any investigating. It feels more like a toy you are supposed to poke and prod at until you eventually find out what happens, though it's easy to lose interest in doing that considering the characters and game features you have to deal with to do that.

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