Gun Mute

by C.E.J. Pacian profile

Western
2008

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Number of Reviews: 17
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
a straight shooter after all, September 12, 2008

I knew that I was going to enjoy Gun Mute because of what others have written on it, but I like it even more than I expected to. The game is short and linear to an extreme, and it features excellent implementation throughout such that even sand and distant mountains can be examined, producing tonal or characterizing replies. There are a number of standard verbs that aren't used in the game, and this streamlined approach works very well. Also, the use of forward and backward as substitute for the standard compass directions keeps the player's mind off exploration, allowing for a focused experience.

The game intends to be an IF take on the shoot-em-up, and that concept is executed with surprising success. Gunfights consist of taking cover behind scenery and stepping out to fire just as your adversary is reloading; setting your sights on an enemy's weakpoint; and focusing fire on environmental targets to get at the enemy indirectly. Not only does choosing a target translate perfectly from typical videogame boss battles to IF form, but it is actually superior in this medium because you need to take care to specifically examine your environment before you are aware that the target even exists. This means that such targets are never obvious from the start, and it feels more like you earned it. The game's action puzzles are never difficult, but neither is the game a breeze; it always requires a satisfying caution on your part.

Incidentally, I also think that Gun Mute would make for an excellent early title for the budding IF player. The game eases you into its central mechanic and allows you to teach yourself simple methods of shootin' fools before escalating the complexity of its set pieces and introducing variations on previous solutions. I thought of Half-Life 2, in fact, as I was playing, because of the Miyamoto-esque gradual training used by the puzzle design.

There are only a few nonviolent character interactions throughout the game, and they are all very charming--perhaps because of the unusual set of options available to you for communication. So there is actually little-to-no roleplaying possible throughout most of the game, lending significance and a fresh feel to such scenes. I quite like that the score system unexpectedly (for such an action-oriented title) rewards certain unnecessary and essentially inconsequential expressive commands, particularly in scenes where a binary decision would seem perfectly acceptable either way. The calm epilogue and especially the final turn end the game on this note, and that ending feels sweet and right as a reward whether or not you make the choice that gets you that final point.

I think that this is an interesting and effective technique for the author to express himself. I can imagine that some players would be annoyed and feel that this is a bias and prejudice that undercuts agency, but, really, this short-form arcade Western is not the place for such a highfalutin criticism.

Gun Mute has only one flaw: looking at or examining an object or character takes a turn, and this is problematic because observation is a prerequisite to choosing a course of action. To be fair, though, you can always do your gawking from behind cover--or at least when cover is available. Speaking of which--and this is a subjective suggestion--I think that the game is robbed of some slight challenge and therefore sense of satisfaction by allowing the parser to automatically fill out the omission in "take cover," as in:

>TAKE COVER
(behind bulletproof glass)

The player should need to determine on his/her own what objects in any given room most likely present suitable cover. I chose to play this way, never inputting "take cover" without specifying an object.

This is far enough, as one of the game's many clever responses will tell you. Gun Mute is a delightful, brief, and unique title, and I hereby add my firepower to the many who already recommend it.