This one has been on the radar for a while, quirky indie looking game with murder and interesting plot. Lets see if this really was Game of the Year 2017 material or if it’s best off staying in last year with all the other horrors. What better way to start the reviews for 2018!
As soon as you start up the game it’s off to a great start and personally sets the tone for the entire game. The title screen music is so good I’ve sat and listened for a good few minutes and the brilliantly crafted artwork just sells it from the get go. Lafcadio Boone has one of the best masks ever made and the setting of a masquerade ball is just a fantastic classical murder scenario.
Everything in the Sexy Brutale is revolved around a pocket-watch, time mechanics and murder. You have 12 hours (which works out at roughly 8 minutes of real time) to move around, interact and save the guests from the murderous puppet servants in unique and fantastic ways. Sounds on paper tedious as time mechanics tend to be but when you have the tools to always keep track of the other people, as soon as you see someone walk to a room that tracking is added to your map. Add to the mix the system that you cannot be in the same room as anyone and have to either hide or leave before you die the game gets a shot of fantastic tension and pacing.
The game feels very similar to The Cave, an adventure mystery with light puzzle elements and a logic system. As you progress through the game and unlock more masks which give powers and unlock more rooms and passageways. You essentially save a person using logic that is a bit marmite but it rarely causes more than a few moments of trying everything.
It looks a little like Lumo in a forced perspective and camera which fits the type of gameplay well with interactive objects highlighted. The more it plays the more I love the art style. It’s a lot less hidden object and more hidden reason with items you pick up having limited uses and burning away if you rewind time, essentially reworking the puzzle mechanics and making the focus of the game about stalking the other characters around the mansion to prevent a death.
Essentially you start each chapter like this; Step 1, Scout out the area, interact with everything to get a mental map of the rooms and find the hidden card extras. Step 2 find a person and ghost them, even if they aren’t important to the mission you’ll likely pick up a little something. Repeat until you know where everyone is and this will lead into the next step. Step 3 Find the murder, it’s usually worth checking the entire murder as they are an absolute treat Step 4 Indirectly prevent it, you cannot be in the same room as anyone to stop it so most of the time you’re changing the murder weapon to be harmless or changing the victims actions. Step 5 Move onto the next area now you have a new power to unlock it, find a clock and start your new save point there.
All of this adds up to a feels like something I’ve not felt in years. It feels like a LucasArts adventure classic. It’s not a direct attempt at it but provides the same “I must see this through” and “My god this is good”-ness that those classics had. It even feels modern with a similar leading logic like TellTale’s Walking Dead and other adventures but with much higher polish and functionally terrific.
It’s worth mentioning the soundtrack again as it’s simply superb. A sort of Jazzy feel with modern tones and effected by the events of the mansion. It’s just perfectly timed to rise with tension, strike when surprised and simper out when chilled. Very Cowboy Bebop in a sense, modern music with jazzy coolness and a way to add tension most games miss. The sounds are also integral, the first murders gunshot is heard throughout the house at a specific time and effects every guest. You may have saved him from his murder once but once you’ve moved onto the next guest and room that poor victim will get shot over and over again.
Obviously the dialogue is important in a game with no voice acting but this is one of those perfect instances where voice work would have detracted from the games amazing quality. It’s not quite swearing (occasionally you’ll see “oh really? I can’t, F-“) but it’s emotive and brilliant. The script excels and there are many memorable moments that build the Sexy Brutale into a living world.
Sometimes the solution is just sitting waiting for inspiration and the right happenstance but that’s how time mechanic puzzles tend to work and everything is in place to make it as painless as possible. Did I mention the music makes it so sweet? The artistry at work throughout is staggering and the more you play the more you want to find out about the mysterious Marquis and how he ties into the events.
There are so many amazing moments and it’s flawless how it’s played out. There are so many “oh that makes a lot of sense now” parts of the game that click into place. The game is refined to almost perfection. I’d love it to death but sometimes the logic takes a bit of a leap and hiding in the cupboard can be mildly annoying if you mess up and get stuck for a while. Also a minor inconvenience is the map system for collectables; You rewind time and that chest you picked open for a hidden card will now be locked again and that makes sense but it would be nice to have a mark to show you’ve already picked it. There are a few moments of backtracking that do get a little tedious but they are few and far between with the mansion being small enough that it doesn’t bog the experience down.
The Sexy Brutale is fairly short but only by other games standards, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and given the price point. The ending is pretty bloody good to and the option to carry on is handy for completionists. If it had been stretched out further it wouldn’t have benefited. There’s no irritating forest section or stupid back tracking through the locations to pick up insults just to pad. The supernatural and twisted warped reality of the Sexy Brutale is fantastically measured. It’s that shot of absinthe to twist and kick everything into a brilliantly tasty mix of personality and avarice.
9/10 – Brutally Sexy.