The Sexy Brutale caught my eye from the moment it was unveiled, promising captivating gameplay, interesting functions, and more importantly, a story that’s worth the journey. So now that it’s here, has that promise been fulfilled? Yes, yes, and hell yes. Now although the title may be somewhat confusing as to what the game is about, do note that The Sexy Brutale is the name of the casino hotel in which the masquerade murder mystery (or mysteries to be more precise) is based. I say mysteries because this isn’t a single murder that you have to solve, instead you’ll be solving the many murders of the hotel’s guests, butchered by none other than the hotel staff members. The real kick however is that you wont just be solving murders, but preventing them too. Caught your interest yet? It had me at hello.
You take on the roll of Lafcadio Boone, an elderly preacher who has been trapped within the confines of not just the hotel, but time itself. You begin the game by awakening at the start of the day, greeted by a rather daunt looking lady who is covered in blood. She eagerly presents you with a mystical mask that grants you the ability to remain incognito in the face of the victims and the murderers. The catch on the other hand is that whilst you cannot die, you’re destined in true groundhog day style to repeat each day over and over when the clock strikes midnight. To begin with, you’re only given a portion of the day to work out how to prevent your first murder, and it’s here that the game gives you the ins and outs, as well as the basics of play.
The aim of the game is to crack and prevent each murder, which will slowly break the overarching curse and put a stop to the madness you’ve found yourself caught up in. Everything that you learn (codes, secret doorways etc..) in any given day is retained, meaning that even if you fail, the chances are is that you’ve at least found something to work with during your next day in the casino. On the other hand, items that you pick up and don’t use will be taken away from you if you don’t solve / prevent the murder before time runs out. You can indeed simply re-obtain any item as they are always placed in exactly the same location ready for you to nab.
Gameplay largely consists of breaking down the events within the casino and following any thread of clues you’ve managed to unearth. In one 12 hour period you could locate the murderer and then spend the next 12 hour period carefully following his or her movements to try and help you seek out more clues and uncover potential murder weapons. You could even spend a 12 hour period stalking the victim to see what time they die, and where. What you cannot do is remain in the same room as anyone else, because they slowly become aware of you and restart your day. This means you’ll have to put on your thinking caps and spy on each and every guest until you’ve reached the conclusion and sussed out how to solve and prevent the inevitable catastrophes. You do this by peeping through keyholes, hiding in closets, or even setting up your own chain of events to unite two characters in the face of danger.
It’s a game that truly knows how to push you to the limit at the same time as holding your interest. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as spending the same day in the same casino, slowly working out the events of each murder and finally putting a stop to it. Not only does each prevented murder gift you with a new mask that houses supernatural powers, but you’re typically given more access to the casino too. These supernatural abilities often come in handy for making your way into new sections of the environment, for example, you can use one of the masks to eavesdrop on conversations or listen to pass-code entries. Safe to say there’s always a use for any mask you’re given and they’re just as fun and intriguing as the rest.
Despite the fact that The Sexy Brutale is immersive to the point of having your complete undivided attention, I do have one small complaint. Travelling between rooms is something you’ll do very often within, so it was a crying shame to see that the game seemed to stutter, and on one occasion freeze when manoeuvring to and from different sections of the casino. If this was only happening a handful of times I would be willing to to look the other way, but in actual fact, this had a habit of occurring at least 3 out 5 times. It’s hardly game breaking, but it does take you out of the otherwise fantastic experience to some small (very small) degree.
Whenever you’re tasked with solving and preventing a murder, you’re always immediately aware of when the murder will take place thanks to your clock in the corner of the screen. You also have access to a map which isn’t too unlike the marauders map found Harry Potter. I say that because not only does it show you the uncovered areas of the vast multi-tiered casino, but you can also track the movements of guests and staff members. On top of all of this, you can even control time using any of the grandfather clocks that are scattered around the venue. You can manually restart the day, or go one further and fast forward time to specific parts of the evening. It’s here where The Sexy Brutale shines at its brightest, when you’re given more tools and clever functions to work with.
Another thumbs up goes to the visuals and the music. Not only is this game distinct and unique, but the gorgeous and sharp visuals, tethered to a magnificently crafted musical score helps to give off an authentic yet eerie vibe throughout. There’s no denying that the developers have had this on the drawing board for a good deal of time, pushing forward careful details and excellent innovations at every corner. When the game wants you to know that a murder has taken place in another section of the mansion, you know about it as soon as the audio shifts its tone and then soothingly glides back into place as if nothing has happened. I cannot commend the music enough, it really fits remarkably well.
One incredible achievement for this game is how well designed it is. There’s a lot of back tracking involved, and you’ll constantly be traversing the same areas over and over, but it never seems to get old. Each and every room has been designed with more care and attention than I was expecting, making the journey an absolute joy despite the dark and gory theme. Puzzles also have a similar level of quality and although they don’t really have a consistent difficulty curve, they’re well implemented nonetheless. When you’re done with the campaign and you’re looking for an excuse to stay within the casino, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a small degree of replay value present. This comes via collectables that you can obtain from the beginning of the game through to the end. There’s nothing new that you’re presented with, but it’s a great incentive to stick around for more playtime.
The Sexy Brutale not only surpasses expectation, but goes to show what talented developers can do with the right tools. It looks and sounds incredible, and comes full to the brim with intriguing and innovative functions that will keep you glued to the experience from start to finish. Sadly the constant stuttering as you move from room to room does become annoying and distracting before long, but with a quick patch I’m sure the developers can fix this up sooner than later. There’s little else I could groan about, there’s replay value, there’s longevity, and above all else, an adventure that will captivate you with its charm and theme from the get-go.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.