Misogynists and sadists look away now because The Sexy Brutale is not what you are expecting. Unless you are expecting a review of a macabre puzzle adventure game set inside a casino mansion, then read on.
In a nutshell, The Sexy Brutale is a murder-mystery set inside a casino mansion which shares the titular name of the game. Players play as Lafcadio Boone, who wakes inside the mansion and tries to figure out exactly where he is and what is going on. Soon after opening his eyes he witnesses a girl covered in blood, apparate in front of his eyes from the ground up, before then witnessing the murder of a man named Reginald Sixpence within the chapel of the mansion. The bloodied girl then gives Lafcadio a pocketwatch. It’s a pretty full-on opening with very little explanation, but it all adds to the mystery and intrigue of this little indie title.
The pocketwatch given to you is crucial to the way the game plays as well. Each day starts at noon and finishes at midnight. During this short time, Lafcadio needs to figure out how to save each member of the party from a grisly murder, through discovering all the secrets of the mansion. Failure to save a partygoer by midnight and the day resets, any collectibles will disappear, but any secrets or pathways discovered remain in place for the next day. However, the day follows the same set structure every single time so you can start to get an understanding of the day as you uncover more about the partygoers and extra areas of the mansion. It does also mean that partygoers suffer the same fate at the same time. Luckily though, any person you have saved once does not require saving again, as your attention will be elsewhere anyways.
The biggest problem Lafcadio faces though is that he has to do all this prevention without anyone else knowing he is there. It’s not a stealth game necessarily, as you can pass through any occupied room, but the inhabitants will stop whatever they are doing, the room darkens and the masks they are wearing will smother you. The only option you really have is to wait outside for them to leave, or peep through the keyhole and see what exactly they are doing.
The masks also play a crucial part in the game as these offer special powers for you to use in and around the mansion, but can only be unlocked when you have saved the person who owns the masks.
The puzzles are clever in that it is easy to figure out what is needed to be done, but actually performing the task is where the difficulty lies. It stops players having a trial and error approach to solving the puzzles, but can sometimes be frustrating when you know what to do, but can’t actually do it because you’re missing one vital piece of equipment.
Added to the frustration is that the game frequently freezes for a second or too, or occasionally longer, when opening the doors. In the heat of the moment, when trying to run away from someone or halfway through a meticulous plan to stop a murder, this can be pretty derailing. Through my playthroughs, this saw a reset of the game being required just the once, but thankfully every other time The Sexy Brutale quickly righted itself after a couple of seconds.
As you might expect, the sound plays a major factor in the game. As The Sexy Brutale replays on a loop, certain audio clues give you an indication of what is occurring away from your main focus. Bells ringing, gun shots and a window smashing all happen at the same time every day and can be used to your advantage if you need to know where you need to be at what time.
When the audio cues aren’t kicking in, then you should be paying attention to the soundtrack, as it is very good. The main theme for the casino is an electro-swing number not dissimilar to Caravan Palace, but the rest of the soundtrack invokes a more haunting feeling, building up to a crescendo whenever the clock draws near to the end of a partygoer.
Despite the macabre subject matter and haunting soundtrack, The Sexy Brutale is actually a calming game. The repetition may sound like a bore, but it never feels dragged out because it only takes a couple of ‘days’ to figure out what you need to do. But when not stopping every murder, discovering every secret and theme within the baroque style mansion can easily take your mind off the task at hand.
Unlike most casino patrons at my local Grosvenor, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome either, with a story completion time of around seven hours. There are collectibles in the form of a deck of cards, guest invitations to collect, and further secrets remain after the conclusion to discover, so it’s more like ten hours in total. As for the story though, the ending does seem to drag out a little bit too long, and things get as confusing and convoluted as Bioshock Infinite’s ending. But in a mansion as mysterious as The Sexy Brutale, anything straight forward would not have given it justice.
The achievements are fairly simple in themselves. They are unlocked for solving every murder and finding the secret areas, and for finding all the collectibles. This totals up to 19 achievements and the hardcore hunters won’t have much difficulty with the full 1000G.
The Sexy Brutale is definitely one of the more original [email protected] games that we’ve seen recently. On one side there is an incredibly dark and sinister side to the game solving, sometimes described in great gory-detail, murders. But then ultimately it is a game of hope as Lafcadio tries to prevent his friends re-living their nightmares day after day. The Majora’s Mask time-inspired gameplay is a very neat mechanic and you get as much out of the game as you are willing to explore. A few technical issues and a lengthy ending stop this from being a truly great standout indie title, but it is easily far better than most.