Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Byte: With apologies to Iggy Pop

You're wearing a MASQ! You're wearing a MASQ! Which MASQ are you?

I finally got around to playing MASQ, thanks to Tom F's feature on it hitting the PCG website. I've played through nearly half of my forty lives (that you get free with the download), and I'm pretty sure I've not even found half of the possible endings yet.

The game might not sound too promising at first glance: you're the chairman of a fashion company, who needs money to front a televised fashion show to launch your new range of highly revealing underwear, but quite soon the intrigue starts to kick in. Your wife wants you to take on a project from her boss, Williams, to fund the gig, while your other option for funding is a loan from the bank. The new clerical assistant, Nikki, is trying to get you into her pants and your business partner Carlos has gone missing after a night on the tiles with someone who wasn't his wife. The kicker is that Williams wants to ruin you so he can steal your wife, and he's rather well connected, since he's married to a mobster's daughter.

From such a relatively simple premise, the level of choice in what you can do is rather staggering. It's not false choice, either: you've got real moral choice - do you sleep with Nikki and betray your wife? Do you stay faithful to her? Or do you "service" them both and try to get away with it? You can also find out the truth behind Carlos's disappearance, get thrown in jail, get killed, divorced, end up a miserable business failure or a resounding success. Not all the characters are what they appear to be, either. You can also consort with gangsters, assault bankers, engage in bit of espionage and even shoot people in the cock. There's so much in there that it's almost a shame that you're limited to 40 "lives" - the 40 runs through of the final episode (episode 5) in the game - but there are possibilities of reaching endings before you get into Episode 5, none of them being particularly positive.

I think my favourite ending so far (spoilers here, obviously) was getting Susan (your in-game wife) to warn Capricho, the mobster, so when Williams (your main antagonist in the game) tries to have him assassinated, he's wearing a bullet-proof vest, so while Williams starts gloating about his victory, he gets his throat slashed by his somewhat irate father-in-law (accompanied by my favourite line in the game: "Do you believe in knife after death?") and you launch your product with a whole load of razzmatazz and live happily ever after with Susan. That is, until Nikki sends Susan the tape recording of you having rough sex with her... whoops.

After playing through it quite a few times now, I can see why it made it into PCG's Top 100. It might not be graphically stunning (though the art is nicely done with very clean lines and a good amount of detail) and it might not have any sound at all, but it's nicely scripted and it's quite amazing to see how densely they've managed to pack story elements into a game that only takes about half an hour to play through. I highly recommend downloading it, as there's a lot in there to experiment with and it is free after all.
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