Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
The above image of Masq isn’t a spoiler, as much as it might look like one. This free game will take you 15 minutes to play, but it branches so often and in such wildly varying directions that you could play it a dozen times and never encounter this particular moment of conflict. That’s what makes it great: it’s pure narrative, told via mostly motionless black-and-white comic frames, but choose-your-own adventures are thrilling when the choices matter this much.
Masq’s other wise design decision is its unconventional setting, at least within the world of videogames. The initial setup is more reminiscent of soap operas: you’re the co-owner of a fashion design company but you’re strapped for cash ahead of a big show; the only person who is likely to lend you the money is your wife’s crooked boss, who you suspect she might be having an affair with; and to cap matters off, you’ve just discovered that your best friend Carlos has been murdered.
By the end of its high-pressure 15 minutes – if you linger on any decision for too long, the game will move along as if you chose to do nothing – you might end up divorced, or in jail, or in the middle of the desert pointing a gun at a naked man about to be bitten by a snake. The soap operatic set-up justifies the wild, salacious story and the methods by which it spins on a dime, and its short length means that going back again and again to try different options is irresistible. Even still, there’s so many options and outcomes that after a dozen plays, I don’t really know who killed Carlos.
If you like the Telltale games like The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us, play Masq. The art isn’t as good, but it’s shorter, snappier, more exciting and doesn’t have any turgid puzzles to get in the way of the story. And it’s free.