|Platforms||PC, PS4 (reviewed), XBO|
|Developer||Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works|
|Release Date||April 11, 2017|
Review code provided
The Sexy Brutale is an isometric adventure game that casts players as elderly priest Lafcadio Boone, who awakens at The Sexy Brutale – a casino playing host to a masked ball. The catch? The same twelve hours are repeating on a loop and the staff have gone mental and started murdering the guests. With the help of a mysterious Bloody Girl and a strange pocketwatch, Boone must figure out the secrets of the mansion and find a way to save the party guests.
Groundhog Day really is a woefully underused touchstone for video game mechanics. The idea of repetition is at the core of just about every game ever released. Most games ask you to repeat the same actions on a loop, dressing them up differently every time to stop players from getting bored, but very few actually embrace this repetition as a core gameplay element.
And so The Sexy Brutale joins a very select club, giving players a (potentially) magical pocketwatch and allowing them to rewind time in an effort to save the casino’s party guests from its murderous staff. There’s a lot going on inside the walls of The Sexy Brutale, with a metric ton of events squeezed into the twelve hours before time resets itself and you wake up next to a grandfather clock ready to go again.
Trial and error are your best friends here (that and the wonderfully eccentric cast of characters). Boone cannot occupy the same room as a guest or staff member, lest their mask come alive and attack him. Careful exploration and eavesdropping are the order of business. When you successfully save a party guest you’ll get their mask, and with it a new special ability that will allow you to access a new part of the mansion.
Saving people requires patience. When you first enter a new area of the casino you’ll find out who you have to save, but have no idea how or even what’s about to happen to them. The Sexy Brutale’s puzzles quite cleverly task players with working backwards, usually having them tail the unfortunate victim to see what happens to them. From there it’s about finding the correct action needed to make sure they don’t meet a grisly, unfortunate end.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it kind of is, at least once you know the solution. Figuring out the solution takes a great deal more work. I spent a great deal of time wandering around the casino, lost and bewildered, before finally getting that one piece of crucial information needed to crack a murder wide open. Other times I had figured out what I needed to do, but just had trouble with the how part of the equation.
The Sexy Brutale is quite open-ended in that regard. While I was briefly stumped from time to time, I was never outright stuck. You can approach each of the game’s puzzles from any number of different angles. I stumbled across one such solution quite quickly thanks to my nature of exploring every available nook and cranny, before later finding out there was a conversation taking place that spelled out exactly what needed to happen to save a particular guest.
Time plays a fantastic role in the adventure. Everything that happens occurs on a very strict schedule. The guests and staff will always do the same things time and again and items you’ve picked up will always disappear when you restart your day. The only things that change are the things you learn along the way. Learning passwords or the locations of crucial, secret items will allow you to progress much faster through The Sexy Brutale’s string of murder mysteries.
Anything important is marked on your incredibly helpful map, including current locations of NPC’s you’ve already tracked. Allowing you a quick glance at it to see where everyone is (or at least everyone you’ve already tracked). The Sexy Brutale is a fantastically slow burning game that really makes excellent use of its time-bending core mechanic. When you take your first, tentative steps through its halls you’ll eavesdrop on conversations that make little sense, find things you have seemingly no use for and hear distant sounds whose origins are completely unclear.
Slowly, over the course of hours of play, you’ll begin to piece together what’s actually going on in this crazy mansion. And trust me when I say the ride is worth the price of admission. Solving the murders and central mysteries of the game will take around 5-6 hours, but there’s a lot more to uncover in The Sexy Brutale. Gaining abilities will not only allow you to continue the central plot, but also grant you access to many other parts of the mansion itself.
There are a lot of secrets hidden around the Sexy Brutale that are well worth taking detours off the main path, with collectables to be found and many extra areas and interactions to be seen and had. Exploring the mansion is a joy in itself. This is a colourful game masking sinister secrets – a bright and wonderful aesthetic mashed together with Gothic Victorian architecture and a wickedly great soundtrack.
There are a couple of sticking points here and there. A bit of input lag sees Boone pause before opening a door (or peeping through it), and I did hit a small number of framerate judders when I was quickly passing between rooms. Nothing that ruins the good times at all, but just noticeable enough to bear mentioning. In the end you can chalk them up to quirks, which fits in quite nicely with the hilariously quirky characters that populate the halls of the Sexy Brutale.
The Sexy Brutale is a fantastic adventure game. Its core time looping mechanic works in every way imaginable. Figuring out how to save the wonderfully eccentric party guests from the equally as wonderfully eccentric staff is brilliant. Slowly going from not having the faintest idea what to do to figuring what action to take to completely upend the predestined events is incredibly satisfying.
As is slowly unravelling the greater mysteries of the mansion through patient exploration and observation. The Sexy Brutale offers all of this, wrapped up in a delightful package of weird, creepy goings-on against a backdrop of awesome swing music and a Las Vegas meets Gothic Victorian London aesthetic.
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