The Sexy Brutale Review -- Like Clockwork
The Sexy Brutale
Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works
Xbox One, PC
Review copy provided by the publisher
Some of my fondest memories stem back to early childhood. I remember staying up late on the weekends playing board games with my family, particularly Clue. For those unaware of what Clue is or how it’s played, it is a murder mystery board game that requires players to investigate the game board for clues surrounding a mysterious murder. In order to win the game, a player must properly identify the murderer, weapon used and room the crime was committed in. Tequila Works is bringing some of those elements to their murder mystery game, The Sexy Brutale, in a new and refreshing way.
The Sexy Brutale isn’t a Clue rip-off though. In fact, the game shows you who killed who, in what room it happened in, and even the weapon used, if any. The real charm of The Sexy Brutale is putting the pieces back together so that you can go backwards in time to prevent the heinous murders from happening.
Upon launching The Sexy Brutale I was immediately given a brief introduction to the main protagonist, Lafcadio Boone, who you will play as throughout the game. Not much information is given about Boone other than the instruction he is given to investigate The (titular) Sexy Brutale, an upscale mansion that is currently hosting its yearly extravagant ball.
However, this year something is out of the ordinary and things are going horribly wrong. The guests are under some sort of horrific spell caused by masks they are wearing and are being murdered by the mansion’s staff. It’s up to Boone to solve these mysteries in an attempt to prevent the murders from actually playing out. Even stranger, every time the clock strikes midnight the day resets — you are the only one who is able to change the future by altering the (recurrent) present.
There aren’t missions in a traditional sense in The Sexy Brutale. Rather, the game lets you explore the huge mansion on your own, which gives you the freedom to explore and uncover at your own pace. I thought this approach suited the game well because it empowered me to be independent with my decision making.
The objective in The Sexy Brutale is simple yet fairly complex as you are tasked with essentially reverse engineering murder scenes using both physical and audible clues you pick up along the way. I’ll be honest: puzzle games are usually not my thing, but the way the puzzles and stories are presented made it a surprisingly pleasant experience and kept me engaged throughout the game’s completion.
The puzzles within the game definitely gave my brain a run for its money, but with each scenario that I completed successfully, I immediately felt a sense of accomplishment. It is moments like this that make me truly admire a game and its creators for the experiences they create.
The way the puzzles and stories are presented made it a surprisingly pleasant experience and kept me engaged throughout the game’s completion.
The first scenario you are given involves saving a guest from getting blasted in the chest by a shotgun wielding staff member. In order to investigate for clues you are given the ability to peek through doors and listen in on conversations.
Using these skills are vital to complete scenarios; often you will eavesdrop on critical information from a conversation that you would not be able to obtain anywhere else. Peeking through a specific door in the first scenario, we can see the poor guest getting decimated by a shotgun blast — however it is not clearly evident how we can change the outcome of this scenario.
Exploring a few more rooms we find a blank shotgun shell and the shotgun used for the murder. Picking up the blank shell and loading the shotgun with it changes the scenario, for the better.
The other puzzles in the game are not as easy and will require some quick thinking skills to solve. Once all of the guests have been saved from their untimely deaths, the game doesn’t truly end — players have 52 cards and 9 invitations that they can search the mansion for. The invitations you pick up will give you more backstory on the guests and their history. Players who find all 52 cards are treated with special endgame content that we won’t spoil.
There is a time mechanic in The Sexy Brutale that allows you to rewind or fast forward time to aide in the puzzle solving process. The day also resets back to Saturday once the clock strikes midnight, over and over again a la Groundhog’s Day.
What this means is that you could be on the cusp of solving a puzzle but when midnight hits, you are immediately taken back to where you previously began on that Saturday at noon. This seemed like it would be a frustrating mechanic at first, however after the first six or seven times it all made sense why the mechanic is in the game.
The Sexy Brutale does allow you to pick your spawn point, sort of. Scattered throughout the mansion are various different clocks that you can sync up to which will allow you to start at that clock when the day begins. However, in order to use a specific clock you must first find the corresponding clock key, which will allow you to wind up the clock and sync with it. The time mechanic in the game added some suspense and a sense of urgency to the scenarios, especially when I didn’t have a key for a specific clock.
It is moments like this that make me truly admire a game and its creators for the experiences they create.
The art style that Tequila Works went with for The Sexy Brutale fits the theme of the game well. The gothic-esque theme of the game meshes fantastically with the gruesome murders that are happening around the mansion. It seems like there was plenty of attention to detail that went into creating each and every room.
At times I found myself exploring rooms, searching every nook and cranny to admire the set pieces that were carefully placed. Throughout the rooms in the mansion you can interact with a lot of different items with each item giving you a small tidbit of its origin or various other pieces of information.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects outside of the gameplay in The Sexy Brutale is the music and sound effects. Often times we see musical soundtracks in games getting left behind without any mention unless the game is a music based game. Everything from the upbeat and sometimes somber tunes to the frequent eerie sound effects in The Sexy Brutale kept me immersed in the game from beginning to end. As the clock ticked down, the music changed from upbeat to slightly archaic which let me know I was running out of time.
The Sexy Brutale is a refreshing new take on the classic murder mystery genre. Throughout my journey of the mansion I went through many different emotions as I raced against the clock to save the guests from their unfortunate demise. The rather short campaign should not outweigh the brilliant music, gorgeous graphical style and unique game mechanics that make up The Sexy Brutale as a whole.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the twists the game threw at me and completely satisfied with the grandiose finale. I highly recommend anyone looking for a fun, albeit challenging puzzle game to check this complex gem out.