The Sexy Brutale

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Cavalier Game Studios (EU), Tequila Works (US)
Release Date: April 12, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'The Sexy Brutale'

by Brian Dumlao on June 8, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

The Sexy Brutale is a never-ending masked ball puzzle-and-adventure game featuring intrigue, murder and the quite-possibly occult.

Buy The Sexy Brutale

Despite the many things can be associated with it, The Sexy Brutale is the name of the casino where the game is set. The name provides no hints as to what the game is about, which is actually a blessing since going into a game cold is a rarity nowadays. You'll find this game to be a brilliant and satisfying murder mystery.

Every year, the owner of the Sexy Brutale, known only as the Marquis, invites a select number of people to his home for several nights of drinking, gambling, and an overall good time. His servants usually do a good job of attending to the needs of every guest to ensure they have a pleasant experience. This year is very different, as the servants are out to kill the guests in various ways, both straightforward and creative. You play Lafcadio Boone, one of the guests of the party who has been left for dead. A mysterious but powerful woman covered in blood has resurrected you and given you the power to save everyone in the mansion from their grisly fates.

Due to a curse placed on your mask, you cannot run up to the victim and prevent their demise. It turns out that the masks that everyone else is wearing are cursed, and staying in the masks' vicinity for too long means you'll return to being a corpse. Instead, you have to indirectly prevent the murders by figuring out how they die. That means entering rooms to find clues, peeping through keyholes to spy on people, eavesdropping on conversations, or hiding out and hoping someone will pass by to drop some information. Unless you get lucky and do something to immediately prevent their deaths, you'll see the crime happen. Thanks to your ability to relive the same day over and over again, you'll have the chance to prevent the murder from occurring.

The initial murder you solve as your tutorial is a perfect example of how things will go. Prior to the time replay, you'll see that a servant has retrieved a rifle from the wall and checked that it was loaded. He goes to the chapel and fires a shot to kill his victim. When you replay the day, you'll hear a distinctive "clink" of metal hitting the floor. Go to the correct room, and you'll see an empty bullet casing. If you load that into the rifle, the servant will go about his routine but be unable to fire the shot, and he'll get a flying candlestick to the head for his troubles.

That becomes your new routine for every character you save. You'll have free rein over a specific portion of the mansion, and you can explore within that space. You can watch the murders happen over and over again, and you'll be able to keep track of where everyone is. You can rewind or fast-forward time in four-hour increments until you're forced to relive the last 12 hours, but eventually, preventing that victim's death means you get their masks. This, in turn, enables you to heighten your own powers, like improved hearing or a wider vision cone when looking through keyholes. These are the only things that carry over when time replays, as any other objects you pick up will be removed from your inventory and returned to their original locations.

As you progress, the deaths become more elaborate and the solutions become more complicated, especially when you're tasked with saving two people at the same time. The real treat comes from your realization that because you're repeating the same day multiple times, you'll catch conversations and actions that are completely unrelated to your current puzzle. As you move forward, some of the things you learned and the meaningless objects you picked up earlier have a purpose in your latest quest. It's a nice trick, especially given the twists and turns that the game throws at you.

The game is rather short, and the Majora's Mask style of gameplay still isn't something that is universally loved. Having said that, the only real knock against the title comes from the controls. It controls rather well on a standard gamepad, but there is no option for the player to customize it. The lack of customization is more of an issue when using the keyboard and mouse combo, as the game is now treated like a PC ARPG, where movement is dictated by clicking on the environment. It feels cumbersome, and the lack of customization can make it feel restricting for those who don't like the default mapping.

The graphics seem to adopt many different styles, but it also mashes them together well enough without looking out of place. The mansion uses a 1920s style for the interiors and sprinkles in some standard horror tropes, like having skulls adorn some tables. The loud and brash decorations, like the overly large single-reel slot machines and statues in the casino entrance, add some outlandishness to a fancy-looking mansion. The characters are done in a super-deformed style, similar to that of Viewtiful Joe minus the heavy black lines. The proportionally larger heads are almost always covered in masks, but at least the headwear is flexible enough so the eyes can give off just the right amount of emotion, even if the mouths are completely hidden.

Alongside the stylized visuals, the audio is spot-on. The jazzy soundtrack sets the old-timey mood perfectly while still adding some menace for moments when you're close to or in the same room as another possessed mask. It does a good job of setting up a whimsical vibe without going overboard. The music also does well to not drown out the other sound effects, so you can only blame yourself if you miss an audio cue that alerts you to something important. About the only thing missing here are voices, though they're more of a "nice to have" rather than something essential.

In the end, The Sexy Brutale is a fascinating murder mystery game. The indirect methods that are used to obtain clues and solve each murder are different from other games in the genre. Though you may be able to stumble upon the solution for a murder or two via dumb luck, the game rewards you for careful observation to the audio and visuals. If you can overcome the keyboard/mouse controls in lieu of a control pad, you'll find The Sexy Brutale to be a game that genre fans need to check out.

Score: 8.0/10

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