This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene.
2017 is rapidly reaching its end, and right up to the last moment the Switch has been treated to constant solid gameplay experiences and one of the most phenomenal launch years in gaming history. I’ve covered some of the biggest and best games of the year (making any kind of Top 5 ludicrously difficult), and also some of the best and brightest new studios offering their indie titles too. As my penultimate review of 2017, I’ve been graciously given a review code of The Sexy Brutale by Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios. This all being said, how is the game?
The story of The Sexy Brutale is an undeniable whodunnit affair, complete with twists, turns and the occasional element of the supernatural. Trapped in the titular hotel/casino, the player takes control of Lafcadio Boone, a priest and possibly the only individual in the building that can resist the insidious goings on long enough to solve them. The Marquis, the proprietor of The Sexy Brutale, is missing and now the employees of the establishment are murdering the guests, and it’s up to the player to not only find out how these deaths are caused but to stop them occurring entirely and save the guests from their grisly fates.
How this is mainly done is through the ability to manipulate time. Using the Ornate Pocketwatch the player can replay the same 12 hours of in-game time so as to track the whereabouts and movements of the various NPCs. The murders will always happen in the same way and at the same time, so the player has to chart the events leading up to to the deaths and work out how to avoid them happening. The way this is done is by wandering the various isometric corridors and rooms of The Sexy Brutale, examining the surroundings, searching for clues and spying through keyholes on conversations and movement patterns.
The puzzle elements of the game shine through every room, with various clues hidden on bookcases, behind hidden walls you can discover by eavesdropping, or by picking up items. This isn’t to say that everything you can find during a particular sequence is relevant to the current objective though, so you also have to sift out the red herrings to figure the puzzle and stop the murder. To add to all of this arguable stress, the player must achieve all of this without being seen by anyone wearing a mask, and the game will give you fair warning if you are close to crossing paths with one via the means of your characters mask becoming enveloped in sinister black flames and a marked shift in audio.
If you’re successful, you’re treated to a short sequence in which the guest removes their mask, which saves them and often gives the player the powers of the guest. These powers include lock picking and heightened hearing ability, among others, and they all serve the purposes of not only opening up more of The Sexy Brutale to be explored but also grant the player additional tools for solving later murders. To use an example, the heightened hearing gives the player the ability to hear anything that is being said in an adjacent room, even if these words are spoken in whispers, then gaining valuable pieces of information for later use.
The Sexy Brutale is a sprawling mansion with many secrets to find for the eager completionist. As well as the aforementioned masks that are gained from completed the primary objectives, the player can also find the invitations for each guest, which unlocks a little profile in the Brochure menu giving a little background to each of the potential victims. Also in the Brochure menu, the player can find information on the various areas of The Sexy Brutale, which can be unlocked either via progression or by finding the playing cards scattered around the building. There are, 52 of these cards (of course) and you’ll be searching high and low to find them all, using all of the powers of the guests. Needless to say, there is a lot to uncover in this creepy mansion.
As is expected now from indie games, the aesthetic is absolutely incredible. All of the character art is beautifully extravagant, and transfers wonderfully into the simplified and exaggeratedly blocky character models so that every character is distinct at a glance. The Sexy Brutale itself is well-designed and coherent, with everything you would expect from a building such as this with all its hidden corridors and gaudy main rooms (especially the casino), almost to the point that the mansion is a character of its own. The music, too, is fantastic with a brilliantly appropriate jazz soundtrack. All of the music is perfect for the occasion, especially the uptempo jazz number that plays in the casino itself.
So, should you pick up this game? The Sexy Brutale, all-in-all, is a wonderfully well put-together experience. The marvellously clever little puzzles, the endearing characters, the wonderful writing, and the beautiful aesthetic all come together to create a unique game that is very easy to recommend. Anyone with a Switch should at least play this game, and at less than £20, it’s a steal for absolutely anyone wanting something different. An essential purchase, and I look forward to this studio’s next endeavour.
Thank you to Tequila Works for kindly supplying the code to review this game.
The Sexy Brutale is available now on the Nintendo Switch eShop.