Monday, 17 April 2017 00:00

The Sexy Brutale Review

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Death stalks the guests of the The Sexy Brutale.

Instead of an evening of opulence and decadence, culminating in a glittering masked ball, hotel staff will extinguish the lives of their guests before the evening is through. There’s more afoot, though, than a service staff that’s bitter about poor treatment and ever poorer tips; nebulous whispers haunt the hallways, hinting at a sinister mastermind who orchestrates violence from behind the scenes. Their only hope for salvation is the elderly priest, Father Lafcadio Boone.

From the interface to the music, every aspect of The Sexy Brutale richly captures the shimmering elegance and indulgent excess of a French Masquerade Ball. The party costumes and masks are complex and unique to each character’s personality. Agatha Christie fans will feel as if they’ve tapped into the universe that spawned Murder on the Orient Express.The creativity and minute attention to detail makes exploring the vast, seemingly endless mansion a pleasure rather than a chore.

The Sexy Brutale is a lush, deliciously dark game that’s part murder mystery, part puzzle-adventure.

The objective is to save masked party guests from the tangled, bloody plots of the host’s staff — not an easy task by any means. Success requires timing, a keen manipulation of events, and stealth. Remaining unseen is vital, not only for protecting the casino patrons but also for surviving as well. There is something terribly wrong with the party masks that both the guests and staff are wearing, as if the masks are driven by an unseen evil: if you’re spotted, even those you are trying to save will come after you in a red blur.

Remaining hidden isn’t difficult, however. If someone is in the other room, your mask will glow with a ghostly fire as you approach the door. In these cases, you can listen or peer through the keyhole to spy on the activities and conversations in the opposite room. The light espionage required — the voyeuristic pleasure in observing others without them knowing, especially when there are secrets to be learned — is one of Sexy Brutale’s most tantalizing features. What’s more, in The Sexy Brutale, the secrets have layers, and as soon as you think you’ve uncovered the truth, you learn that there’s even more hidden, just beyond your grasp.

You’re not alone in your quest. A mysterious girl helps you along the way, and she takes the ‘scantily-clad’ trend to a whole new level.

Where some girls go for the ‘barely-there’ look, she’s skipped the couture and left both her dress and skin at home. Despite her macabre garb, she’s an ally, helping you discover new powers, among which include the ability to manipulate time (you can rewind the day, over and over, in a twisted, Tim Burton-style remake of Groundhog Day).

Time manipulation comes in handy, as it soon becomes obvious that preventing murders isn’t an effortless endeavor. First, you must locate the victim in the sprawling mansion, then you must observe their untimely demise. But, knowing how they die isn’t enough, and you must pick apart the spider-web plot until you find the thread that unravels the whole scheme. Each puzzle demands careful thought and a hefty dose of trial and error to solve. The solutions aren’t obvious, even to veteran puzzle game players.

There are no restrictions on reversing time in The Sexy Brutale, despite this, you’re always racing against the clock. You retain knowledge gained in a timeline, but, once the day rewinds, anything else you’ve done or discovered dissolves from existence. Learning the times and locations of the guests’ death is helpful, but you’ll often still be rushed to get everything in place to save them before their bell tolls.

Timed puzzles can be tension-inducing as you struggle against both the problem and the clock. The Sexy Brutale’s timed component helps give the game a challenging edge, but not to the point of painful frustration. Timing your maneuvers is required, but the margins for error are generous — you aren’t forced to start over if you make a minor mistake. Allowing endless rewinds also helps keep the game fun rather than frantic, because even if you do make a mistake, it’s easy to go back.


The Verdict

Taken individually, the components of the gameplay in The Sexy Brutale are not groundbreaking:  time reversal, stealth, and puzzle-solving are fun, but not innovative, elements. How they’re combined in this game, however, is fresh and unusual. The fantastic art and flawless execution of the game make this one must-have for fans of the genre.

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Phoebe Knight

Phoebe Knight is a freelance writer and novelist. She cut her baby teeth on the original King’s Quest, and has loved gaming ever since. Phoebe’s favorite games are usually weird ones with quirky storylines, but she has also logged an embarrassing volume of hours in sweeping open-world fantasy games like Skyrim and Witcher 3.


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