The Sexy Brutale Review

By Andrew Ogley, 1 year ago
Around the TA offices, I have a reputation of being a little verbose. Brevity is not my strongest point. I will use a full paragraph when a simple sentence will do. I have the unerring knack of making even a short story long. So it's a little ironic that the review of Tequilla Works newest title could have been my shortest ever had it not been for our own editorial guidelines. The Sexy Brutale is simply brilliant. It's one of the most innovative and superbly crafted titles to grace the platform for a long time. It's a gem of a title. Long story short, it's simply exquisite.

Characters


With some titles, you never quite know what you are getting into and with a name like The Sexy Brutale conjuring up several different mental images, you'd never guess what it was about. Masquerade Murder Mansion might have been clearer. As it is, The Sexy Brutale is the name of the casino hotel mansion in which the game takes place and whose guests have the unfortunate fate of being murdered by the hotel servants during a masked ball in all manner of nefarious ways.

The player takes on the role of the fallen preacher, Lafcadio Boone, who is tasked with saving the unwitting victims from the clutches of murderous staff. However, within the realms of a single player puzzle game, that's never going to be a simple task. It's not a matter of simply yelling "it's a trap!" to the victims or tying the assassins shoelaces together, the player has to resort to more subtle forms of sabotage.

The Sexy Brutale


Lafcadio awakens at the start of the day and is met by a bloody lady, dripping head to toe, who presents him with a special masquerade mask which makes him invisible to victims and assailants alike. More importantly, he will not suffer the same fate as all of the other guests. At this ball, when the clock strikes midnight, the day begins again, a grisly and gruesome groundhog day in which the hotel guests will be murdered ad infinitum unless Lafcadio can break the curse. Fortunately, all knowledge gained on any day is retained, allowing the player discover the many dark secrets of the mansion including hidden passages, passwords, and codes. However, items not used simply disappear again as the day is reset. As the clock heads towards midnight at an inconveniently fast pace, a small degree of panic creeps in, knowing that you'll be starting the day again, and again, and again.

And so begins the pattern of the game. You begin to strategically use the 12 hour periods. In one 12 hour period, you follow the victim, peeping through keyholes to witness what foul deed is perpetrated upon them and by whom and in what way — a sort of voyeuristic Cluedo game in reverse. You might need another day to discover where the assailant obtained the weapon or hid the only means of salvation. It's a simple little game mechanism but brilliantly executed. There's a real joy here, putting the pieces together, unraveling the details of each murder, discovering the method of sabotage, and thwarting the eventual murder, albeit for that particular day.

The masquerade masks play an essential part here too with all of them containing some supernatural power. This is a blessing and a curse. Enter a room occupied by another character and their mask will attack the player, chasing them from the room. However, save the victim, and the character's mask will be given to the player endowing them with a new special power, essential for progressing further with the game. You'll be able to listen to whispered conversations, discover hitherto unseen guests, and unlock previously locked doors.

Screens 5


All of this gradually opens up an impressively large mansion and lively gardens, spread across multiple floors. Luckily, there is a map available which not only shows the discovered mansion areas but also shows the movement of the known victims and assailants with a time slider that can be used to track the paths of the characters, which is useful in your sleuthing. Combine this with the ability — after saving the first victim — of being able to start the day at any of the special clocks under your control, you begin to develop strategies for solving the various puzzles.

The scenarios and puzzles are well balanced throughout. Whilst the first provides a sort of tutorial and is relatively easy, others can be more esoteric and then others a little easier again. Happily, it's not an ever increasing level of difficulty. They will tax you occasionally, but never strain your gray matter too severely or leave you feeling perplexed. Ironically, the real headscratcher is the final reveal in the good ending to the game which I got the gist of, if not all of the finer details, but that had little impact on the enjoyment of the overall experience.

Inevitably though, there is a lot of backtracking through previously discovered areas while unveiling new ones and whilst this may seem like a grind, however, the cartoonish art style of the mansion and the characters make it a delight. All of the rooms have some brilliant little details, most of which are useful at some point in the game, but others are just there to amuse. It's quirky but all good fun. The characters too are superbly animated, and look like they just stepped out of a Tim Burton animation. They are charming and brilliantly realized, even the bloody lady, one of the key characters in the story, still manages to look classy despite doing her best impression of Sissy Spacek in Carrie.

Screens 01


Music also adds to the charm. The ambient melodies blend in perfectly with the period in which the game seems to be set. With the sounds of murderous misdoings continuing throughout the day at their predefined times, a familiar rhythm of death rings through the mansion. It provides an ambient audio cue for the passing of time and you recognize that one of the poor unfortunates has yet again fallen victim to the nefarious servants of the mansion.

Sadly, there are some minor issues. The game stutters a little more than the word 'occasionally' permits between rooms. There are moments too when a button press does not seem to register at the right moment. But such is the overall quality and craftsmanship that this feels like complaining about a stone chip on a Rolls Royce, or a loose thread on an Armani jacket. Yes, it's a blemish but in the larger scale of things, it doesn't seem to matter. You're prepared to turn a blind eye.

Screens 2


Achievement hunters will be pleased to know that there are only 19 achievements, none of which are particularly difficult with perhaps the exception of discovering all the collectibles — invitations and playing cards — some of which can only be retrieved before or after a specific time. Ultimately, you can wrap up the game in anything from 6-8 hours if you so choose.

Summary

The Sexy Brutale is a truly memorable title. The grisly Groundhog day design makes for a unique gaming experience unlike any other title on the platform. All of the elements of the title, the graphics, characters, environments, sounds, music and gameplay come together in a superbly crafted game that oozes class from start to finish. The puzzles are enough to tax you without straining your brain, and the gameplay is cleverly balanced throughout. Despite the macabre subject matter and quite grisly demises to which some of the guests fall victim, the game retains its alluring charm. There are games that feel manufactured, some just simply developed, but here you feel that the game has been crafted. From start to finish, it oozes class. There is something special about The Sexy Brutale, something you don't come across often. To come full circle, it's a not a phrase that I would use often to describe a video game, but this is quite simply exquisite.
4.5 / 5
The Sexy Brutale
Positives
  • Superbly crafted game design
  • Great visual style
  • Balanced level of gameplay throughout
  • Unique game mechanics
  • Truly memorable title
Negatives
  • Some relatively minor technical annoyances
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent about 10 hours and numerous in-game days playing guardian angel to the all of the guests and unlocking all of the achievements. The Xbox One download code was provided by the developer for purpose of review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.