Created by Cavalier Game Studios and shipped to the world by Tekila Works, The Sexy Brutale is a delicious, witty story about murder and time travel that touches upon the absurd, the macabre and the emotional. With a supreme art direction and an exceptional atmosphere, this indie title brings a much needed touch of originality to the recurring “crime in a mansion” theme.
A Time-Travelling Delusion Behind a Masked Ball
The Sexy Brutale‘s starts with its protagonist, Lafcadio Boone, waking up to a living nightmare, almost in a rushed fashion. But as you quickly (and painfully) realize, there is no time to lose. Thanks to the help of a mysterious lady covered in blood, Lafcadio discovers the stifling reality of the Marquis’ mansion. The whole place is caught in an endless loop of 12 hours, a gory show where the guests are being butchered systematically by the staff, over and over again. With his mask of discernment, Father Lafcadio is the only one immune to the curse. And thanks to a supernatural pocket watch, he’s able to manipulate the threads of time at will.
The goal of the game is not to find the perpetrators but to follow and construct the schedule of each felony, to trace the victims’ movements, their conversations throughout the villa and sometimes, the ones of those (in)directly implicated in their demise. Understanding each action chain is key to finally overtake them all and prevail above the macabre beats of the madhouse. If you do so, each guest or pairs of guests are saved and will share pleasantries with Lafcadio. They will also grant him another mask with the necessary ability to keep on progressing through the adventure.
Do not get too attached to these innocent fellows though. Even if their crime has been resolved, you will hear the sounds of their deaths again as a new day starts, but by then Lafcadio’s path will be linked to that of someone else. Behind each murder there’s another puzzle piece and The Sexy Brutale has plenty of secrets to reveal.
Between Murder and Voyeurism
The core gameplay is basic. Lafcadio can roam through the mansion, peeking through peepholes, hiding in closets and listening carefully to the sounds and conversations surrounding him in rooms nearby. Some doors will appear closed at first, only to be opened later. Once Lafcadio’s pocket watch gets repaired, he can also interact with the old clocks disseminated through the villa and move time forward or reset the day altogether. After each reset, all the objects you have collected during your roaming are erased but your knowledge remains. Time makes you wiser, at last!
He cannot, however, be in the same room as anyone else in the mansion. Doing so will trigger an aggressive persecution against Lafcadio, who has to flee the scene and find shelter somewhere else.
It’s in this game of following and spying where The Sexy Brutale shines. With the luring attraction that Lafcadio’s investigation generates, the thrills of discovering a new intrigue and the assembly of narratives.
The Marquis’ mansion enhances the gameplay with its detailed environments and labyrinthine setup. In the beginning you may feel a little bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of doors and corridors out there. However, once you have solved the first two murders and mastered time-traveling, everything becomes all the more natural. The presence of an in-game map is also pretty nifty. Echoing the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter, it traces on paper the chronological movements of the people you have been following. Something that you definitely need in the delicious chaos of the mansion.
A Masquerade of Stories
In The Sexy Brutale everyone attends a masked ball with, well, masks. While those of the staff follow a similar pattern, guests’ are way more original, reflecting their flamboyant personalities. Some of them will be handed to Lafcadio after he saves their carriers, which opens up new possibilities in the mansion. Rescuing a master lockpicker will grant Lafcadio the art of opening locks, for instance, while a singing diva’s mask will allow him to shatter windows and crystal urns everywhere. The presence of these powers adds intricacy and prevents the gameplay from going stale.
Another big win for The Sexy Brutale is the way it manages to develop interpersonal stories with the help of concise, small dialogues. These may sound simple at first but some personalities here are everything but banal. The more conversations you unveil, the more ties and relationships you uncover and the richer its universe becomes. The presence of a mentor, the mysterious bloody lady, provides Lafcadio with his own voyage of discovery. And of course there’s also the tale behind the Marquis, the owner of the mansion and ultimate enforcer of its enigmas.
The Sexy Brutale Our Verdict….
It may have passed unnoticed amidst the waves of top AAA titles but The Sexy Brutale is definitely worth your time and attention.
In terms of length, The Sexy Brutale took me around eight hours to beat. Important is to mention that I am not a mastermind when it comes to puzzle solving. Some murders take some extra brain squeezing to figure out. Others, way less effort (and could feel like filler episodes for puzzle maniacs). Once you understand how masks, objects and time-travel work together, concentrating on the mansion’s secrets may take most of your delight. Its replay value revolves around its divergent endings and different collectibles for completionists out there.
All in all, The Sexy Brutale will keep you hooked with its general freshness. In its own right, it encapsulates the best of what the intrigue genre has to offer, accomplishing a distinct style with its sparkling originality and humor.