We always get excited when Wales Interactive announces a new project, as they’ve been frontrunners in the resurgence of the FMV game genre. Their latest project, Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus, is out now on all major systems – we tested it on a PlayStation 4.
Two of Wales Interactive titles we most fondly remember are Late Shift and The Complex, both of which play out like a modern TV movie style thriller with branching narratives that let you essentially “choose your own adventure” by selecting between two or three options at regular intervals. It’s a bit of a formula and the runtime of these interactive thrillers is usually under two hours, but as fans of both films and videogames it’s a wonderful blend that’s very suitable for an evening of home entertainment.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns threw a wrench in big scale productions with sets and tons of people, but Wales Interactive was quick to adapt. We already saw Night Book as a production that was made during this period, and Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus pushes the concept even further towards the reality we’ve all been in. Video calls with family and friends were common, and video/online game nights weren’t a rare sight either. It’s the same in this case, where you’re about to enter into a family quiz full of eccentric characters. You’re Abby, played by Abigail Hardingham – who we previously saw in the 12 Monkeys TV show.
Before the quiz starts, however, you hear from your Uncle Marcus (Andy Buckley of “The Office” fame). He’s been poisoned, and he knows it was one of the people in the upcoming video quiz that did it. You need to help him by figuring who it was, but more importantly – what the poison was, so that Marcus can be saved. Time is of the essence here, as visualized by an on-screen timer.
Gameplay is familiar if you’ve played a Wales Interactive game before, though the conversation-heavy approach here makes it feel more like Five Dates than The Complex. Characters rather than scenes and events are the central elements here, and Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus sure has an eclectic cast of them. Nearly all characters (except for Abby) feel like exaggerated caricatures, from your sister who’s a wannabe influencer to the drunk aunt and her dysfunctional children. The actors generally run with it as well, turning in cheesy/hammy performances that quite over the top, but all the more fun for it.
During the quiz, you’ll pair up with different characters over the course of multiple rounds, allowing you to question them and figure out if they maybe had something to do with what’s happening to Marcus. It’s a real “whodunnit” – the kind that you have to play and watch several times over to see if you can get a wider view of the big picture here.
It’s fun to uncover the truth, but one downside is that subsequent playthroughs force you to watch previously watched scenes all over again. While the initial playthrough will be wonderfully immersive, you’ll be searching for a fast-forward button that doesn’t exist later on, trying to focus on new story branches only.
As the world is trying to move away from lockdowns and restrictions, Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus is being released at the right time. It’s a product of the times we’ve been in together, with actors shooting their own parts remotely, and players will instantly be able to relate to the online (family) meeting format the game uses. Not unlike films like Host, Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus is a one of the better examples of creative approaches that emerged during a global pandemic. Merged with a fun mystery narrative, it’s a fun ride to engage with over the course of an evening, even though we hope that Wales Interactive will be able to return to their large film set-based tales as well.