The Sexy Brutale
Welcome to the Sexy Brutale, a to-die for party that's so fun, you'll never leave...
The Sexy Brutale is an adventure game that takes place in the titular mansion, where the owner, The Marquis, is hosting his annual gala. However, there are two major problems: one, the day keeps repeating itself in an endless loop, and two, the staff are brutally murdering all the guests. It's up to you to save the guests and discover the secrets of the Sexy Brutale.
Overall I liked the game, but it's by no means perfect. The biggest flaws, I'd say, are inaccurate marketing and an incredible amount of wasted potential. The Sexy Brutale is a stylish, spunky adventure, and as long as you go in knowing what it actually is, as opposed to what their marketing team wants you to think it is, you'll probably have a good time.
You play as Lafcadio Boone, a guest at the Sexy Brutale. The mansion is stuck in a time-loop of murder, but when a mysterious girl covered in blood touches your mask (leaving a massive red handprint), she frees you from the loop and tasks you with saving the guests.
This is an adventure game, maybe a puzzle game. Nothing more. The game markets itself as a "time-loop murder mystery," but it is nothing of the sort. There is the mystery of why the time loop and murders are occurring, but there is nothing mysterious about how the deaths happen. This game is very much like Ghost Trick: you go through a series of puzzles in order to prevent people's deaths, and the mechanic by which you are given multiple tries is a time loop. While there is a mystery in the plot, the mystery is resolved by advancing the plot, not the player's deductions.
That being said, this game is like Ghost Trick... if the amount of effort spent on the puzzles was spent on graphics and the amount spent on graphics was spent on the puzzles. The Sexy Brutale takes place in a stylish, wonderfully macabre world, but the game is short and the puzzles simple.
As explained, your goal is to save the guests from being murdered. You do this by going around the mansion, interacting with objects in a way that will prevent the murder you're currently focusing on. Everything in the mansion that can be interacted with is denoted with a circle, which means you never have to pixel hunt. The mark on your mask has freed you from the time loop, but prevents you from being in the same room as any other guest at the same time. This means that you have to observe everyone's movements and actions by looking through keyholes, and look for chances to sneak into the important rooms to investigate and mess with them.
However, the puzzles are too simple. Most of them require only a couple of steps to solve. When compared to Ghost Trick, where each chapter involved a veritable Rube Goldberg machine (and where there were many more chapters!), the puzzles in The Sexy Brutale feel shallow. While there are some clever puzzles, they don't show up until the end of the game. This feels like it is simply wasted potential. The creators clearly had the ability to make good puzzles, but as soon as the puzzles started to rev up, the game ended. I wish that either the puzzles simply had more meat to them, we had to save the guests multiple times (so there was more room to add in more complex puzzles), or the staff members altered their plans as we made our move in order to make foiling them more difficult. Following the guests and stuff to discover exactly how each victim died is fun, but be warned that the way you actually prevent each murder is quite simple, and you don't even begin to approach Ghost Trick's first chapter until the end of the game.
Moreover, this is an adventure game, so there are a couple of Guide Dang-It moments sprinkled in. There's no in-game hint system or anything, so you can easily get stuck if you're simply working on your own... but that's what Google is for.
Overall, the gameplay is smooth and intuitive. As you explore the mansion and witness guests and staff, a map of the mansion and everyone's movements is automatically recorded. Every day is scripted, so sometimes you have to wait for a certain thing to happen, but each in-game day is short enough that waiting was never an issue. On top of that, you can jump forward to 4 pm or 8 pm. (The game takes place from noon to midnight.) Each time you save a guest you obtain their mask, which gives you a special power, which in turn lets you further explore the mansion. I will note that the game sometimes lagged (mostly when going between rooms), but I suspect it was more my computer than the game, and although it was annoying it didn't ruin the experience.
But enough with the bad. Let's talk about what The Sexy Brutale did right, because there's plenty!
The title uses the two most apt words to describe the world of the game: sexy and brutal. The game mixes the aesthetics of the Roaring Twenties and a classy casino to create a dark, wild, and extravagant atmosphere. The mansion is simply spectacular, with each room in the gigantic building uniquely and individually decorated. Each room has a few points you can examine, which helps flesh out the details and character of the mansion.
As you collect the collectibles in the game (a deck of playing cards and the invitations for each guest), you unlock entries in the "Brochure," which gives you more information on the guests and the various rooms. The Brochure further develops the characters and the mansion, and includes both red herrings and clever foreshadowing. The aesthetics, descriptions, and lore all make it clear that the developers put a ton of effort into developing a full, interesting mansion, and it really paid off.
The characters have unique, flashy designs, but the structure of the game prevents them from being too developed. We can't interact with any characters directly (let alone be in the same room as them), so all we get to know of the characters is what we see from watching them keyholes over the course of a single day. Despite the limited amount of screentime any of the characters get, each is still able to stand out. The designs are also filled with subtle details that show the amount of effort the developers put into trying to craft the characters, despite how little we get to see of them.
In fact, the game is filled with small details, from Lafcadio performing the sign of the cross when he hides to the light that comes in from the windows moving as the sun sets, that convey the heart the creators poured into this game.
Overall the soundtrack is superb. The music is bouncy and jazzy, just what you'd expect of a fancy soirée. Each area of the mansion has its own music, and only one murder, which allows the music in each wing to be tailored to the events that occur there. It syncs with the mood of the characters during the day, swells to a crescendo as the murder draws near, and leaves a haunting echo when there is nothing left but a corpse. The main theme melody might play a smidge too often, but that's just a minor issue.
For most of the game, you're just trying to save whichever guest you last came across, because hey why not. But near the end of the game the plot starts going, and boy does it get going. The plot explains all the major questions it sets up, and becomes surprisingly poignant. Once the game is completed, there are quite a few details that take on a new meaning on the context of the truth.
This is a relatively short game, clocking in at about six hours for the story, and then an extra hour or two to 100% it. The Sexy Brutale is a fun romp that its developers clearly poured their love into, and as long as you don't go in expecting something the game doesn't have (actual mysteries, complicated puzzles, or significant length), you're sure to have a ball.