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Going into The Sexy Brutale, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The name doesn’t give much away, and the studio behind it was unknown to me. As I watched the credits roll however, I realised that I had just played one of the most creative games of this year.
The entirety of The Sexy Brutale is set in the titular mansion turned casino, owned by the eccentric Marquis Lucas Bondes. The guests of the mansion are stuck in a 12 hour time loop, fated to die over and over again. Resident priest Lafcadio Boone wakes up and, with the help of the mysterious ‘Bloody Girl’, gains the ability to free the victims from their intended fate.
Basic gameplay revolves around observing the guests you need to save, along with the staff of the mansion. By following their activities and listening in on conversations, you can find out the events leading up to their demise and start working on freeing them from the time-loop. Without player intervention, the guests and staff will always go about their days the same way during every loop. This means that even if you fail to save a guest after a few loops, you’ll eventually be able to gather enough information to aid you for your next attempt.
Gathering information is fairly simple. To start with, Boone only has the ability to look through keyholes and hide in closets to avoid guests. Being seen by one of the other guests or staff causes their mask to attack you, forcing you to leave the room before you are caught. This prevents you from easily being able to follow guests around as they move around the mansion, but it’s pretty easy to avoid capture.
Listening on guests allows you to find out more about them, along with important information like lock combinations or the placement of hidden rooms. The guests themselves are varied and interesting, making it fun just to discover new conversations or interactions. Unfortunately, the nature of the game’s short time-loop means that you don’t get to know too much about each guest, but extra collectibles that you find do offer extra insight into the inhabitants of the mansion.
Since you’re unable to directly interact with anyone in the mansion, the solutions to the rescue of each guest relies in the manipulation of the environment. Guests generally stay in certain parts of the mansion, limiting the amount of rooms you need to cover when trying to save them. This makes things a little easier, especially since the game doesn’t give you too many hints on the solution to each puzzle.
After saving a guest, Boone receives a new ability. This allows you to move on to another part of the mansion to save more of the guests. In this sense, The Sexy Brutale is similar to Metroidvania style games, where you can’t access certain areas until new powers have been unlocked. Later areas will require the use of many of your abilities, but the game never makes the solution to puzzles too complicated. Even if you’re forced to loop many times in the attempt to save a guest, the relatively short amount of time each loop takes stops things from being too annoying or repetitive.
The mansion itself is fun to explore. The various rooms and areas of the mansion have their own distinct themes, the casino entrance being an early highlight. While not overly detailed, the style of the environments and characters stand out even from a distance, which is a good thing since the camera is usually zoomed far out to show the entirety of the room you are in.
Though the game looks nice when not in motion, once you start to traverse the mansion some technical difficulties appear. A lot of rooms are fine, but some of the larger or more densely packed areas cause the framerate to noticeably dip. Framerate issues also extend to moving between rooms. Sometimes you only experience a small framerate drop, but occasionally the game had to freeze Boone in place for a few seconds before allowing him to move into the next room.
Special mention must be made to The Sexy Brutale’s soundtrack. Every song is a joy to listen to, giving the game extra character and charm. The soundtrack also further enhances the game’s atmosphere, with musical cues tying in to what’s happening on screen or around the mansion. The Full House Edition includes the soundtrack in it’s entirety, which is a welcome bonus.
The Sexy Brutale is the perfect example of how to have an interesting premise while also making a good final product. Unlike a lot of projects nowadays that feature unique ideas and mechanics, but fail to translate them into a fun game, The Sexy Brutale manages to stay interesting for the majority of its (admittedly short) playtime. I can only hope more games in the future manage to learn from Cavalier Game Studios’ success.
Game Title: The Sexy Brutale
Release Date: 11.04.2017
We took the screenshots using the PS4 version. This game was provided by the publisher for review purposes, check our review policy for details.