The Sexy Brutale by Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works
The Sexy Brutale is an adventure puzzle game set in a enormous mansion during a looping 12-hour period. The guests of this mansion are all set for a terrible demise throughout the day, and it’s the player’s job to prevent their horrific deaths through the subtle manipulation of circumstances to alter the flow of events. The Sexy Brutale is overflowing with style, from its eponymous art deco casino/mansion setting to the outstanding soundtrack that accompanies the grim events taking place within; this game offers a small but incredibly deep world within which one can easily get lost.
Death Needs Time for What It Kills to Grow In
It’s difficult to describe the narrative of The Sexy Brutale without giving anything crucial away; the game wraps itself in mystery from the outset. A short segment at the beginning of the game provides a basic tutorial and lays out the setting: a vast mansion populated by fascinating masked personalities lies unexplored before you, and over the next 12 hours (in game), most of those people are going to die very unpleasant deaths. A magical watch allows you to rewind time to the start of the day as you navigate around these murders and do your best to prevent them.
The Sexy Brutale is a finely choreographed theatrical play taking place across a 12-hour period (about 10 minutes in real time); every character has a set schedule to which they will adhere right up to their untimely – or well-timed? – demise. I was engrossed by the clockwork nature of this world, following different characters from room to room to learn and catalogue their schedules on my map. Eventually a jigsaw puzzle comes together for each victim, showing not only how they die, but the key events leading up to their deaths and, more importantly, how to tweak things just enough to prevent it.
The gameplay of The Sexy Brutale is largely puzzle-based; key items must be found and taken to where they can be put to use in order to change the course of events. Entering a room with any of the characters causes time to freeze and their mask to literally fly off and chase you out of the area. This necessitates a stealthy and subtle approach; bullets can be replaced with blanks and deadly traps can be disarmed behind the scenes.
A somewhat “Metroidvania” approach is taken to exploration in The Sexy Brutale. Saving characters causes them to give you their masks and so unlock new powers; these usually allow new routes to be explored through the mansion and previously unpassable obstacles to be bypassed. This well-tried design remains strong and provides a superb sense of discovery. These powers provide the main source of progress through the game, as – of course – the changes you make to the world are otherwise transitory; all those unfortunate guests will perish again in the next cycle as our attention moves onto the next puzzle to be solved.
The art and sound of The Sexy Brutale is nothing short of delightful. The mansion, characters and menus are all beautiful and incredibly stylish. The music is another stunningly well-crafted part of the game’s clockwork precision; each area has its own atmospheric theme matched to the 12-hour cycle, building to climax in time with the grisly deaths taking place in that section of the mansion.
The sound design is also excellent; almost every key event throughout the cycle makes distinctive noises that can be heard throughout the game, providing both grim reminders that those we saved before are dying once again and tantalizing us with hints of the horrors we have yet to discover. I’ve also never enjoyed the sound of footsteps quite this much.
A Scuffed Clock-Face
Despite its beauty, The Sexy Brutale is not without flaws, although thankfully, they are minor. As I explored its intricately constructed mansion, I found myself wishing that things were a little more open world and that I could take on puzzles in any order. Here, things are a little more linear, but ultimately the tight design of the game benefits from this limitation.
There are also some small imperfections that tug at the threads of an otherwise seamless tapestry; animations are not always up to par with the excellent environment design and there are a couple graphical glitches that can occur when new rooms load. Ultimately these are minor niggles but they mar what is otherwise a stunningly polished game.
The Sexy Brutale is a painstakingly designed work of art beckoning the player to explore every nook, and every moment, of its beautiful world. From the precisely mapped actions of its many interesting characters to a story that becomes surprisingly moving as its mystery is unwoven, The Sexy Brutale is a unique and incredibly engrossing mystery that is more than worth unraveling.
The Sexy Brutale is available via the XBox Store, Sony PlayStation Store, Steam and the Nintendo Online Store.
Watch the official The Sexy Brutale trailer below: