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Gun Mute

by C.E.J. Pacian profile

Western
2008

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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 15
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Violence is the answer, July 29, 2018
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
You are Gun Mute, and your friend Elias is about to be hanged by the evil sheriff. So what's a man to do? You grab your trusty six-shooter, enter the post-apocalyptic Western town, and shoot anyone who tries to stop you.

Gun Mute is an almost pure combat game, where you move through a completely linear series of encounters most of which end with either you dying to your enemy's bullet or your enemy dying to yours. The fights are not based on a numerical combat system à la Treasures of Slaver's Kingdom or Kerkerkruip; instead, each encounter is a puzzle in which you have to identify your enemy's weaknesses and use them to prevail. Failure means death, but you can always undo. Some of the puzzles are better clued than others, but for the most part, they are enjoyable. Along the way, there is some room for non-combat discoveries; and the ending is particularly satisfying.

Essential playing for anyone who wants to design a puzzle-based combat game; recommended playing for all others.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.

2 of 2 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.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.

2 of 3 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!

3 of 3 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.

2 of 3 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.

5 of 6 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.

4 of 5 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.

12 of 13 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.

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
A futuristic western fable, July 15, 2008
by Clare Parker (Portland, OR)
Mute Lawton, the tongueless sharpshootin' hero of "Gun Mute" ploughs through his post-apocalyptic hometown with the ruthless persistence of the Man With No Name. Mute is driven by the love of one man, Elias, doomed to hang at noon, and no pistol-packing, shotgun-toting, laser-eyed, mutant posse members will stop him.

"Gun Mute" offers a fantastic little glimpse at a grimly strange future world. The characters that Mute must defeat are all stereotypes from western and sci-fi pulps, but the twisted character types make for interesting targets/allies. All the enemies have names prefaced by adjectives, my favorite being Glow-in-the-Dark Earl.

None of the puzzles are too difficult, although there are a number of learn-by-dying puzzles. Some puzzles require extremely tight timing. (Spoiler - click to show)I can't imagine anyone getting past Atomic Alice without being crushed at least once. I never found this frustrating, however. Even the best gunman gets outshot sometimes. Given the situation, this serves as an effective tension builder, not as a pointless irritant. The game mechanics in general create a feeling of urgency and a need to continue on. "Gun Mute" uses only "forward" and "backward" instead of the usual compass directions. I found this inspired a powerful urge to go onward, ever onward, even when I realized that I had forgotten to do something in a previous level. Although the game itself is not timed, I could still practically feel that clock ticking towards noon.

There are one or two minor changes that, in a perfect world, I would like to see in "Gun Mute". A counter of how much ammo I had left at the top of the screen would have been quite handy (Spoiler - click to show)and would have spared Mute a couple of needless deaths. My other quibble involves the plot. Although I have no doubt that Elias is innocent and Mute's mission just, I cannot help but wonder what Elias's alleged crime is. So far as I can tell, no explanation is given for his death sentence. However, these are minor points in an otherwise wonderful and original game.

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
6 Bullets, 1 Heart, No Tongue, July 6, 2008
by perching path (near Philadelphia, PA, US)
Who doesn't enjoy aiming a six-gun at cyborgs? I do, and it's even more fun in a program which usually manages to parse my commands as fluidly as Mute Lawton draws his sidearm.
Considering that the game is based around combat puzzles, the emotions here are pretty nuanced. Not everyone who takes a shot at you is your enemy, and there's a few lines which get across the idea that rampant violence and small populations make for some difficult choices. Still, what can you do? Your man's got a noose 'round his neck.
Gun Mute limits the scenario's combinatorial explosiveness in a very intuitive way. I never felt that my options as a player were significantly more constrained than those of the character, though both were very constrained indeed.

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Nicely Executed, March 18, 2008
by Grunion Guy (Portland)
A quick and thoroughly enjoyable game in an interesting Wild Apocalyptick West setting that I'd love to see fleshed out into a bigger game. It's nice to see shorter games that are interesting enough that they demand a few replays as you try to wring out every last piece of writing the author put into the work.

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
Shotgun Shack, March 12, 2008
In the world of linear game design, it would hard to get much more linear than this: your travel options are limited to f (forward) and b (back), as you follow a path to your appointment with destiny. At each stage, you confront those who would stand in your way, which usually means relying on your six shooter.

I would expect Gun Mute to appeal to people who enjoyed the recent combat-puzzle games Slap That Fish or Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies, but I think it is a bit better-designed than either of those. The puzzles generally seemed fairer than the ones in Slap That Fish, and it's clearer from the outset what the player is supposed to be doing. Meanwhile, the environment is more richly imagined than AotYRZ, not only because the player is allowed to look around and examine objects, but also because some care has been put into developing a coherent setting. This is a strange vision of a post-nuclear society which has gone back to old-west manners and mores, except with a somewhat more modern view on acceptable romantic pairings. There's also more of an overarching plot: nothing very complicated, but satisfying for the size of game this is.

It's not a long game (and the gameplay premise would probably wear thin if it were), but I found Gun Mute novel and enjoyable.


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