Gag (opens in new tab) is a genuinely chilling game about a very real kind of horror. The guy with the nightmarish face is comedian Andy Barr, whose co-stars are becoming increasingly concerned about how he treats the young, impressionable women who work for him—one of whom you play as.(opens in new tab)
The game has a surreal aesthetic and an uncanny atmosphere. It's part middle-of-the-road network sitcom, part David Lynch's Rabbits (opens in new tab). When Barr tells one of his corny jokes (which are very much in the Seinfeld mould), the laughter of an unseen audience echoes from a black void engulfing the set.
At one point a guy called Tom, Andy's neighbour, pays his apartment a visit. But rather than Kramer sliding in, it's a tall, faceless figure covered in fur... or straw? Later, a disembodied head floats into the room. This is Paul, another of Barr's oddball group of friends. This is a deeply unsettling game.
Doubly so when a character speaks. The cast all sound like haunted Speak & Spells (opens in new tab), with eerie, distorted digitised voices that really got under my skin after a while. Especially when Andy became violent and aggressive after I asked if I could leave after spending the night with him.
At several points in the game you have to decide whether to keep this to yourself, or tell the other cast members at the risk of losing your job. There are two endings depending on what you say and to whom.(opens in new tab)
This is a story about a powerful and controlling man abusing his position, which makes it feel uncomfortably real, despite the bizarre visuals and tone. But I think that's why it's so effective as a horror game.
On the surface it's odd and disturbing, but dig deeper and it tells a story that has become depressingly familiar of late. On a shelf in Andy's bedroom are rows of trophies in the shape of women staring down at the floor, quietly suggesting that you aren't the first—and you probably won't be the last.
There are some pretty strong references to sexual abuse, which the game warns players about before they begin. If you can stomach that, it's a challenging and unique experience with a compellingly strange atmosphere.