The premise of The Sexy Brutale isn’t exactly clear from the name. It even takes a little bit of time for the game to explain exactly what it going on and what you will be doing. It turns out that the host of a mansion masquerade ball is missing and the staff are brutally murdering the guests in a collection of extravagant ways. Your job is to journey around the building, stopping the party from becoming murderous by preventing the various killings.
In practice, this makes for a completely unique game that is unlike anything else I’ve ever played before. The Sexy Brutale introduces a number of innovative ideas almost immediately. This includes giving your character both a mask that turns them invisible to everyone else and a time traveling watch that allows you to reset the day. This effectively gives you unlimited chances to save the guests from their fate.
Unfortunately, though, as this is a puzzle game you cannot simply warn the victims what is about to befall them. Instead, you have to go through an elaborate routine of subtly altering events so that plans are sabotaged to foil the murderers as they are about to commit their heinous act. To foil these schemes, the title tasks you with exploring the surrounding environment, studying the routines of the participants, and finding out anything useful on your travels. You must then put all of this knowledge into action to prevent each murder from taking place.
While each daily reset will put everything back to its normal state, undoing your work, you do have some advantage. Not only are you able to memorize what the victims and perpetrators are doing but you also get permanent access to any information you discover. This might include things like passwords, secret codes, and messages that will help you when you try to set your own plan on its course.
The puzzles themselves are all excellently implemented. After a brief tutorial section you are thrust straight into the action, with the mission of saving the first victim from a grisly death. The Sexy Brutale gives you hardly any information to work on other than the general location of the act and the identity of those who are set to be killed. From here, it is completely up to the player to decide how to proceed. The general tactic is to try and spy on all of those involved through peepholes and hiding places whilst also exploring the mansion for clues and extra information.
The complexity of each murder means that it is incredibly important to plan your solution carefully. This becomes even more important when the scenarios involve saving two people rather than simply one. It plays out sort of like a murder mystery crossed with a game where you are tasked with assassination targets – only played out in reverse. While it takes a lot of work to figure out exactly how to stop each murder, it is also incredibly satisfying when you accomplish the goal. Not wanting to spoil any of the puzzles means it is difficult to describe exactly how the solutions play out, but they all make perfect sense and are logical.
The masquerade setting combined with the distinctive gothic art style gives The Sexy Brutale a look that can rival even the most highly polished game. Each character has their own, beautifully designed, appearance with an ornate mask. Combined with the excellent animation and an extravagant yet impressive environment, this is a game that is nothing short of a pleasure to experience. The gentle and subtle soundtrack only complements this, providing just the right amount of musical accompaniment to add some drama to proceedings.
There are a few problems with the overall title that do have a detrimental effect. The performance is far from perfect throughout your adventure, with several scenes dropping frames and stuttering becoming an issue. There also seems to be some lag involving input from the controller, with button presses not registering as accurately as you might like. The story too has some of its issues and a twist that I, and I think many others will as well, could see a mile off.
These are just slight complaints compared with the rest of the game, however. The time travelling mechanic is something that has never been successfully implemented in a video game before, especially in such a unique and interesting way. It truly makes The Sexy Brutale stand out from many other indie titles that are available. When combined with the excellent puzzles and superb presentation, it makes this a must buy for anyone. It feels more like a carefully crafted work of art rather than a product and is sure to feature in numerous Game of the Year lists at the end of 2017.
This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes. It is available to buy right now for $19.99