Have you ever wanted to stop an array of murders at a masquerade party with the power of a time-traveling pocketwatch? Well, look no further. The Sexy Brutale is a short, interesting puzzle solver with unique key mechanic to make it stand out.
- TL;DR: A short, cute puzzle solver with a unique central mechanic
- Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
- Developers: Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works
- Time Played: 6:00
- What I Played: Completed the game
The Sexy Brutale is the name of both the game and the casino mansion it takes place in. A huge masquerade party is going on where the staff of the mansion caters to the desires of the guests. Things aren’t as they seem, though. Guests are being murdered throughout the mansion and, according to a red haired woman who disappears into a puddle of what looks like blood, the only person who can stop the trouble is a priest named Lafcadio Boone. The woman gives you a mask said to protect you from being seen and sets you on your way.
Stopping a murder isn’t as simple as walking into the room where it occurs and asking politely. Each case is its own distinct mission with a first step of watching the murder take place. How else would you know what to try and stop? Murderers and victims move about the mansion throughout the day as you tail them, peeking through keyholes and hiding in armoires to see and hear things you otherwise shouldn’t. Eventually you’ll see the kill take place, but now that its happened how can you undo it?
Enter The Sexy Brutale’s key ingredient — a magic pocketwatch. Activating the watch rewinds the day to 12:00pm and resets everyone in the mansion to their starting positions. They may happily go about their day but information you learned in prior “days” sticks with you. The watch automatically activates at midnight each day if you don’t trigger it beforehand. The in-game map shows you where people will be at certain times of the day provided you’ve seen them there before. Knowledge of secret door locations and passcodes stick with Boone throughout but any items you’ve picked up are put back in their places. Figuring out when to be where is the major focus of The Sexy Brutale. If you are caught in a room with another person you are forced to leave it so you’ve got to keep a close eye on where people are at all times. Most cases require at least three or four rewinds to fully solve. You will even have to, on at least one occasion, let someone die and use an item they possessed to gain information before rewinding time and using that information to prevent their death in the first place.
I’ll use the first case as an example. ***Spoilers for first mission*** In it, a man is shot in cold blood at 4:00pm. After watching where the killer walks into the room from, you can rewind the day and backtrack to where he came from and where he got the gun. Working further back leads you to how you’ll stop the murder altogether — an empty shell casing that needs to be placed in the shotgun before the would-by killer picks up the gun. The cases get more complex as the game progresses, but the first one is a great in-game tutorial on the basics of sleuthing and backtracking. ***End spoilers***
Guests that you save leave behind their masquerade masks as powerups tied to their character. The first person you save, Reginald, is the mansion’s clockkeeper and his mask allows your pocketwatch to automatically jump to 4:00pm or 8:00pm rather than waiting. Willow, the subject of the third case, is a bit of a crazy person with an affinity for the supernatural. Her mask lets you light candles to talk to ghosts in the mansion who usually have important intel. There are only seven events to work through which leads me to my chief complaint. The Sexy Brutale spends a lot of time tying everyone and everything in the mansion together only to section off each case in its own effectively gated area. The mansion slowly opens up to you as you gain more mask powers only to quickly end after about six hours. I hardly used some of the abilities at all and would have liked another mystery or two that spanned the entire mansion and put all of the abilities to use.
The most interesting character in The Sexy Brutale is the mansion itself. Confining players to a small, interconnected space gives you a sense of comfort and familiarity as you poke around. The weirdest and most unsettling part of the mansion are the sounds within it. Even after you save someone, that person continues to die at the same time each day while you work on another case. You’ll hear the same gunshots, shattering glass, and ringing bells at the same time every day. It’s a pretty weird feeling to know someone is dying over and over yet you allow it to happen, even though you have the tools to stop it.
Fumbling around the mansion is especially fun when The Sexy Brutale looks and sounds the way it does. Each room is presented in an isometric view, almost like a physical puzzle being looked at on a table. It gives the whole game a feel of you moving chess pieces around rather than you actually playing as Boone. Big-headed, tiny-bodied characters lighten the otherwise downer mood. The soundtrack is another star that mixes old timey piano and horns with modern drums and bass. You can even pick out the “crinkly” effects you typically hear in old black-and-white films.
Overall, The Sexy Brutale a decent game. It’s on the short side at roughly six hours, doesn’t let you use the few abilities you have outside of reading and listening, and may be too easy for some. The core loop of watching a murder and reverse engineering the solution can get tedious at times, too. There also isn’t much in replay value since figuring out those solutions are one-time things. Even with these caveats, saving lives with a time-traveling pocketwatch is a pretty good time. If you’re in the mood for a shorter game with a unique central mechanic, The Sexy Brutale can fill that void.