The Sexy Brutale shouldn’t be the name of a game. Upon seeing the words written down like this on a page for the first time I really thought it was going to be a cocktail and perhaps a drinking den somewhere in a basement which…
Wait, was that a gunshot?
I’ve messed up, let’s start this again.
The Sexy Brutale is another one of those games in which the character you control wakes up from a deep sleep. This time though it’s on the floor of a room that has…
There’s that gunshot again. Damn. Let’s go again, shall we? At least we know how this all fits together this time.
In a game developed jointly by Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works, the titular ‘Sexy Brutale’ is a mansion casino and is the venue of a masked ball every year for a long list of distinguished guests. In previous years the celebrations have gone wonderfully and each party goer has received all their heart’s desires. This time around however something has changed. All the staff suddenly seem to want the guests dead. Playing as Lafcadio Boone and guided by the mysterious ‘Bloody Woman’ you’ll slowly unravel this mansion’s secrets by saving each victim from their deadly demise.
Time travel is a big part of The Sexy Brutale. Not so much in the Back To The Future way of blasting backwards a few hundred years but more being able to use an old pocket watch belonging to the mansion’s clock maker and rewinding to the start of the day again before Staff Member A can grab the gun from the wall and use it to murder Guest B. You’ll spend a whole lot of time nervously approaching doors and peering through keyholes to look at what’s happening on the other side.
One of the key conditions as you go about your work in The Sexy Brutale is that you cannot be seen by anybody else. Spend too long snooping and somebody will walk into the same room. The screen turns red, a sound like a demonic steam engine will ring out and you’ll have to run like crazy to avoid game over. You’ll be kept on your toes whilst playing and it’s a lovely sense of tension.
The Sexy Brutale is a twisting, detailed puzzle that you can move around in and peer through all the openings to get an idea of exactly how this all works. You’ll waste time in The Sexy Brutale, you’ll miss events that are happening in other rooms and people will die because of your inaction. This is all part of the plan though as, equipped with this knowledge, you can start the day again and make sure the same mistakes aren’t made twice over. Whilst The Sexy Brutale does want to repeat the same section over and over again it wants to learn each time until eventually you’ll find the solution. This can mean the game is quite slow by nature but there is a defined reason for this gradual pace. The feeling you’ll get from working out how all the individual cogs work together and fixing it so the ending changes for a far more positive one will always bring a smile to the face.
Not only do all the characters in The Sexy Brutale have fantastic names (‘Trinity-The Moth In The Moonlight being a prime example) but they all wear masks. Once their lives have been saved then it’s possible to inherit their disguise and use it for yourself, gaining new abilities in the process. Some give you more control over time, enabling you to rewind to certain points rather than just the start of the day whilst others give you abilities like ultrasonic hearing so you can pick up every whispered word in the next room. It’s a discreet levelling up process and extra masks will give you the power to access parts of the mansion you were unable to before.
The mansion itself is dripping with atmosphere. There’s an old-time 1930’s movie feel to the game where strangely modern CCTV cameras sit on the wall above cocktails cabinets, grandfather clocks and roulette tables. Record players sit in corners of rooms and blare out saxophone jazz tunes. The Sexy Brutale’s environments have the feel of somewhere you’d go to get away from it all but not quite want to tell anybody else in case they thought less of you.
The Switch is a great home for indie titles, a fact established by the many ports that have graced Nintendo’s hybrid over the last year or so since release. The Switch version of The Sexy Brutale, the version reviewed here, is slightly clunky. Loading times are somewhat long and often rooms will freeze in place for a few seconds before being playable. It sometimes feels a little rough around the edges and, whilst nothing game breaking, the juddering points are noticeable.
The Sexy Brutale is still a wonderful game though and the technical stutters are forgivable to have something that gives such a unique experience. The game often feels like a three-dimensional version of Cluedo that instead of solving the murder you must prevent it happening in the first place. There’s a lot of thinking to be done and you’ll have to take note of the surroundings in the most detailed way but finding the solution and watching each of the guests carry on with life is a glorious achievement.
Wait, there wasn’t a gun shot. I think we got it right this time.