I have always been a fan of super hero RPGs. I started back in the day with Villians & Vigilantes, then on to the original Marvel Super Heroes RPG and Superworld from Chaosium. I have collected a number of other super hero RPGs over the years and I'm always willing to look at any that come out. I pick up Heroes Wear Masks mostly on a whim, at $8 it was within my "impulse buy" range.
I have given the game a quick read, and started to create a super, but consider this as more of a "first impressions" type of review.
First, I think a disclaimer is needed for Heroes Wear Masks. Is it truly a standalone game? I think you need the Pathfinder Core rules, which I do not own. While it clearly states that it is "Pathfinder Roleplaying game compatible" that is not the same as noting HWM is not a full game and requires other books. That said, I don't think a lot is actually missing to make HWM a complete standalone RPG.
Second, the character sheet. How can you not have the game title on the sheet? I'd like to see a two page version in any event, as having room for the hero background and more notes on allies/enemies/equipment is always nice. I'm sure that at the very least, fan created character sheets will resolve these issues, but offical ones from Avalon Games would be nice.
Other random thoughts: The idea of levels for supers, even having played V&V, strikes me as odd. I am more used to seeing supers starting out fairly powerful, then with some minor advancement as they adventure. Then again, I have always prefered lower power level super games, so the idea of heroes struggling to combat street gangs and well armed bank robbers has some appeal. Adding a new player/character would be an issue if the other heroes had gotten up past 6th level or so, while in other super games they would fit right in and might even be better than some experienced characters. Call it a minor issue in my mind.
My initial idea for a super involved a law enforcement robot from the far future. I don't think that fit with the Origins and Classes offered in HWM. Instead, I went with a stretching hero (like Mr. Fantastic) with a "Enhanced Human" origin and "Super Human" class. HWM seemed to handle this fine.
The default "Power Activation Check" made me laugh a bit at the mental image of a hero leaping from a tall building and failing his fly check. Perhaps I misread this? Certainly it works as a Disadvantage, but as a default?
Solid writing in Chapter 7 "Super Heroes and RPGs" with good advice for GMs and players along with the history of comic books. I will also, if nothing else, steal characters and adventure seeds from Chapter 8 "Heroes Inc." for use in future super games ( not matter the system). Overall the writing shows a fondness for the subject matter and made me think HWM was more of a "labor of love" then just cranking out a supplement.
Summary: I would give this a three star rating, but four stars if you are a Pathfinder fan (with a fondness for levels). I have a feeling a number of Pathfinder parties will find themselves crossing dimensions to rub shoulders with super heroes in the near future.
[3 of 5 Stars!]