- Format: PC (version reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
- Unleashed: 11th April
- Publisher: Tequila Works
- Developer: Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.thesexybrutalegame.com/
- Game code provided by the publisher
The Sexy Brutale is one heck of a game. It’s a puzzler with a lot of style behind it, and while it doesn’t always make full use of all the systems it lets you play with, it’s still damned good. If you have the point of reference, it’s like a 3D version of Ghost Trick, which also had you stopping murders by watching them happen over and over again until you found a way to prevent them; without any direct influence on those involved.
Part puzzler, part murder mystery, The Sexy Brutale is set inside a mansion during a masquerade party; one with few guests but a party nonetheless, where you have to replay the same 12 hours over and over again as you try to solve the puzzle behind each of the murders. By “solve” we mean temporarily preventing it from even happening. Once you save them though, you’re destined to let them die again and again as you try to solve the other murders. By the time you complete the game, each and every mansion-wide event that you hear every time at exactly the same time – like the gunshot or the bell ringing – will remind you of one or two very specific deaths.
What makes it interesting is the way in which you go about your solving things. There are various skills that you’ll need in order to locate who is where in the mansion, and what they are doing. Time stops and you get chased by demon masks when you enter the same room as anyone that’s alive; so instead you have to rely on peeking through keyholes, listening through walls to overhear conversations and see footsteps, and (the exception to the rule) hide in a wardrobe before someone enters the room.
Seeing and overhearing people is how clues and the like get filled in, giving insight into what’s going on or giving access to previously hidden items, or even new areas. There’s maybe three or four times in each of the murder scenes where these skills need to be used – the rest being item or power based – so you get good use out of them.
It’s probably the most fun part of the game. While ‘stealth’ isn’t a particularly apt description, since none of the guests or staff can actually see or interact with you, it’s fair enough to describe the feeling of running about the mansion, just out of sight, like some sort of magical spy. It also has an aspect of a voyeur, with the scampering about peeking through keyholes to overhear conversations or watching someone plotting their next actions. It’s not exactly proper stealth, but it’s more fun because it isn’t; though being chased by demon masks does get tiresome fairly fast.
Since everyone is trapped in the same 12 hours (not real time thankfully), any time that you see them – quite literally any time – they will then be marked on your map indefinitely for that moment. It’s brilliant, like a sort of paint by numbers guide to solving who was where and when they were there, in a handy map where you can scrub from 12pm to 12am. So eventually you can see everyone’s movements throughout the mansion at any point in time, which is incredibly useful for finding things that they’ve hidden or interacted with.
Unfortunately, it’s the special powers that you pick up throughout the game that tend not to get used for puzzles, and as a result feel the most lackluster when you do get to use them. Bar the first two essential powers, the others are really only used for collectibles, rather than being integral to a proper murder puzzle. They were used for a few well-hidden secrets too, and the few secrets that used them were good. There just aren’t enough of them though, so it’s mostly for getting your hands on collectibles, which is more of a run around than anything remotely cerebral.
There are a few things that we had gripes with but the only big issue we had was the technical performance. We had quite a few stutters as we transitioned from one area to another, with the camera occasionally not following into the room for a few seconds after we could already start moving around. It could be due to our system being on the edge of the requirements though, so take that with a grain of salt.
On the gameplay side of things, we found that the only real problem being the trekking about from one end of the Mansion to the other. It’s not hugely slow but mix it in with the more confusing areas, blocked-off passageways, and the matter of having to pause the game every time you want to access the map, and it’s a slog at times. More so when the performance issues arise too.
As we mentioned before the art style is slick, and – dare we say it – sexy. It’s an art style that’s incredibly easy on the eyes, with great animation to boot. It’s unfortunate, then, that all the characters have these great big masks covering their features because they are highly emotive when you do get to see them maskless.
Despite our performance issues, and us thinking that it had a little untapped potential with how little some powers were used, as a whole, it’s damned good fun from start to finish. It looks fantastic, plays really well with its mix of puzzles and light stealth, and the story unravels at a nice pace; we can heartily recommend it.