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Gun Mute

by C.E.J. Pacian profile

Western
2008

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Number of Reviews: 14
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A linear, thrilling parser game about a futuristic cowboy , May 9, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
In this game, you face a series of combat challenges, one after another.

Each challenge is in one location, and you use a variety of methods to attack your opponents.

Before Superluminal Vagrant Twin, this was probably Pacian's best known game. It has some violent and suggestive elements. It features a romance and several friendships, often with the people you are battling. The setting is rich and evocative.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short and sweet, with more than meets the eye, November 25, 2016
by TLeather (London, UK)
Gun Mute bills itself as an “Interactive Fiction shoot-em-up”. It’s a novel premise that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but works surprisingly well. The game makes use of its turn-based parser to give the player a limited number of moves, simulating the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed of a Wild West quick draw.

The game’s puzzles consist mainly of a series of shootouts, each requiring a slightly different approach. They aren’t the most innovative or difficult puzzles, but they’re fair and just tricky enough to be satisfying. In fact, I often recommend Gun Mute as a good parser-based game for beginners to IF for precisely this reason.

The setting is also consistent and just original enough to be intriguing – think Wasteland with more robots – and the game is well written throughout.

So far, so good, but what really makes Gun Mute an important game is this: (Spoiler - click to show)it has a gay protagonist, it depicts a gay relationship, and it asks the player to make it their duty to protect this relationship. Most importantly, it does all of this without the least bit of fuss, with no explicit explanation that the protagonist is gay or that he’s trying to save his boyfriend; until the ‘reveal’ at the end of the game, most players are likely to assume that they’re rescuing a friend, family member, or comrade in arms. The games industry typically gives little airtime to queer characters, and while the IF community is far better in this regard, it’s still rare to see a game that unapologetically includes a queer character without drawing attention to it or making it a central plot point. Gun Mute would work just as well with a straight protagonist (in fact, most of the game wouldn’t need to be changed at all), and that’s why it’s so subtly powerful as a queer-positive game: it says “I’m a gay game, and I don’t feel the need to defend myself.”

At the same time, we have to assume that Gun Mute knows what it’s doing: by saving the reveal that the protagonist is gay until the very end, it gives players time to identify and empathise with him before they learn this piece of information that is both trivial and crucial. Players who might otherwise have felt alienated from the protagonist and his plight because of his sexuality are instead fully invested in them, and only after becoming so must they face the tension between their identification with his quest and their discomfort with his sexuality.

Even if we take out the gay reveal, Gun Mute is still a tersely designed game with accessible but fun puzzles and good writing. In short, it’s a success even when considered without the context of the games industry and its typical (non)treatment of queer themes, but viewing it through that lens elevates it considerably. It's a short and sweet game with a nonchalance that belies its real significance.


A Textual Rail Shooter, March 15, 2015
by Matt W (San Diego, CA)
A rail shooter implemented in text; makes you wonder where there isn't more effort to take graphical game tropes and remake them as text (c.f., e.g. Kerkerkruip.) Pacian seems to have decided on a limited list of verbs and actions, then created a puzzle using every possible permutation. This could potentially have been a tedious string of rooms, except that the concept is wholly novel and the writing is very strong. The game doesn't outstay its welcome, and has a visceral and satisfying feel.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Shoot em' Up!, January 3, 2015
by Chai Hai (Kansas City KS)
A delightfully futuristic western tale which is fun all around! I love how each person has a specific way to interact. Being measured was the best part. :D

The western theme is extremely fitting and keeps the player engaged. It is clear to me why people kept mentioning this game in reviews when I played other games by the author. It is quite memorable and a classic.

Mute's inability to talk grew on ya and the story was quite charming at the end. I enjoyed it, it was one heck of a ride! Well done!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it, July 8, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: C. E. J. Pacian
Play it if: you want a game short and easy enough to breeze through but quirky and different enough to be memorable.

Don't play it if: linearity is a major turn-off.

The premise is simple. You're a reticent gunfighter, The Man With No Voice if you will, and your single purpose is to save your loved one. Get from point A to point B. Kill obstacles. Rinse and repeat with feeling.

Gun Mute is probably the most fun I've had with a game this linear. It's something like a cross between Time Crisis and those town-wide shootouts that seem to populate the climaxes of old Westerns. And as with the best action sequences, no two killings are alike thanks to a series of varied if easy puzzles.

Although the game doesn't operate in real time, it maintains a sense of urgency. The need to make use of timing, not only in response to your opponents' actions but to keep your own gun loaded, gives rise to a near-illusion of real-time action. It's an interesting effect, almost reminiscent of watching the still images in a flipbook come to life with motion. Perhaps I'm overplaying it, but I found it notable.

The setting isn't a straightforward Old Western locale so much as a post-civilization anarchy that has reverted to a sort of New Old West. Cyborgs bartend at the local saloon, the railroad transports futuristic battle turrets, and you install GPS software by drinking it. Pacian makes the wise choice not to dwell on the setting, as it isn't the focus of the piece, but lets it color the environment a little and thus keeps it memorable and distinctive while still sticking to the basic forms of the genre.

Overall, this is a fun and different sort of distraction. Hardly morally challenging or thematically deep, but a great deal of fun. I spent less than half an hour getting from beginning to end, and it'll stick with me a whole lot longer.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Linear & gimmicky, yet just how I like it!, February 6, 2012
by DCBSupafly (USA)
I'm a big fan of gameplay based on explicit gimmicks. Sure helps with GTV. Gun Mute's title says it all. You will shoot your way through each area, and you will never talk.

I'm not a big fan of linear gameplay, but Gun Mute is an arcade game in words. Time Crisis with puzzles and a handful of verbs!

Be sure to read Pacian's .txt file, perhaps after the game if you don't need any help; it contains not only helpful hints, but also a list of hey-try-this's.

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Gunstar Heroes... the text adventure, September 25, 2011
by frsh
It feels a lot like playing Gunstar Heroes for Sega Genesis but turn based, text only and in "boss only" mode. For some reason I kept picturing everything in my mind as if it was rendered with the graphical style of Gunstar Heroes while I was playing the game. Yes, even the romance... And I'm not even a big Sega Genesis fan, I just remembered playing Gunstar Heroes a very long time ago and Gun.Mute brought that memory back.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
The most fun you can have with a couple of verbs, May 24, 2010
by Nusco (Bologna, Italy)
Related reviews: post-holocaust, steampunk, western, shoot-em-up, experimental
Giant laser-firing robots, steampunk-ish western bad guys, radioactive mutants, badass gay cowboys with an attitude and a lot of shooting at people - this game has everything you need. You can call it an experiment on the form, because it purposefully limits itself to just a few verbs (of which "shoot" is the most important by far) and declares itself "an IF shoot-em-up". Experiment or not, this is one of the funniest short pieces of IF I've played in a while. Its unassuming attitude, approachability, shortness and blatantly linear gameplay only make this spaghetti-western-meets-mad-max-meets-doom pastiche more of a pleasure.

3 of 4 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.

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Rails done right, July 29, 2008
A cute, graceful post-apocalyptic mute gay cowboy romance shooter. The game flows smoothly through a series of pleasantly campy shooting puzzles in which your only options are to shoot and take cover. This works better than one might think; the lack of obstruction provides very mild challenges, but does not distract from solid writing that sparkles with beautiful flourishes. Don't expect length or difficulty - this is worth a couple of plays to see and do everything, but it could be drained dry in half an hour. Compares favorably to the sillier and slightly more difficult Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies.


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