The Sexy Brutale Review
The Sexy Brutale Review
Unless you are an action-junkie who requires a weapon to enjoy a game, you need to put The Sexy Brutale on your play list. It has everything a gamer could want…an engaging story with an unexpected ending, easy game mechanics, challenging gameplay, great graphics and wonderful background music.
Posted: 07/08/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Cavalier Game Studios, Tequila Works | Publisher: Tequila Works | Platform: Playstation 4, Windows, Xbox one

Genre: Adventure
Release date: April 11, 2017

An Unexpected Treasure  
 

I recently discovered game developer Tequila Works when I played RIME. I loved the game so much that I had to have more. Off to Google I went to locate other titles released by them and found The Sexy Brutale. This game is actually the brainchild of Cavalier Game Studios – a small indie team of very talented guys (Jim Griffiths, Charles Griffiths and Tom Lansdale) based in England. Working in partnership with Tequila Works, The Sexy Brutale is their first release and it is one of the most engrossing games I’ve played. It is nothing like RIME. Instead, it is a unique and a delightfully different experience that held my attention for 20+ hours. While most will finish it in much less time, I avoided the ending so that I could keep playing. But, more on that later…

All in a Day’s Work  
 

The Sexy Brutale is played from a top-down perspective. You control the character Lafcadio Boone who finds himself at The Sexy Brutale – a mansion/casino owned by a mysterious Marquis and filled with staff and guests. You soon discover that guests are being systematically murdered by the staff. Your job is to change the course of the day to prevent each murder and, in doing so, reveal the secrets of the mansion and its owner. Sounds easy? Think again!

This game is like an incredibly complex game of Clue. But The Sexy Brutale is much more than identifying Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Candlestick. Initially, you witness a murder, and a “lady in red” appears to explain how you can (and must) save the victim. You begin traversing the mansion to understand all the events that led up to the crime. You then explore ways to change those events so that the murder does not occur. You follow staff and guests, peep through keyholes, listen to conversations, and watch time pass. You have all the time in the world because the clock rewinds at the stroke of midnight and the day starts again.  Once you save the first guest, you are given a pocket-watch that gives you the ability to restart or fast forward the day, as needed.  You have nine guests to save and a larger mystery to solve. It goes without saying that you are going to relive this day many, many times. 

Never a Dull Moment  
 

Despite being in a time loop, the game expands as you play and is never boring. The mansion is vast and complex with hidden passages, locked doors, and areas only accessible by magic. The “lady in red” shows up intermittently with words of advice, and a map of the mansion is constructed as you explore. The Menu includes a MAP screen that is more detailed than an architect’s blueprint and provides a navigational point of reference. Once you’ve tracked specific characters and witnessed their activities, icons representing each appear on the map and you can track their individual locations as time advances. The map allows you to rewind or fast forward the day’s timeline and step through the movement of people in the mansion. If a character disappears from the map, it is likely that you have additional activity to observe.

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But Wait! There's More…  
 

In addition to lives to save, The Sexy Brutale has several sets of collectibles and provides an interface to track your progress. There are 52 playing cards to gather, 9 guest invitations to locate, 7 masks to retrieve, and a large number of rooms to explore. The PROGRESS screen (shown below with spoilers masked) shows you how you are doing. For the gamer, who is an overachiever at heart, this screen provides a major incentive to keep playing!

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Finally, there is a BROCHURE screen that provides a game tutorial and builds the backstory as you progress. Most rooms in the mansion have elaborate descriptions, and there is a brief biography for each guest. Towards the end of the game, a set of secrets is revealed. Overall, it is like reading a well-written novel, and I marveled at the creativity and effort that went into creating this level of narrative.

TheSexyBrutaleInTxtImg3

These critical screens are accessed with a single key stroke (ESC in the Windows version) and the game clock stops while you are working in the Menu area. There are also descriptions for the “find and use” inventory items that are collected as you explore. A few items are retained throughout the game but most are “single-use” and disappear when they have served their purpose OR when the day restarts. Inventory can be selected and used from the main game screen with a few keystrokes. All-in-all, it is an effortless interface that provides the player with easy access to everything needed for success.

The Adventure Continues (and continues…)  
 

When I started playing The Sexy Brutale, it took me an hour or so to find my way and prevent the first murder. After that, it was pure fun. Spying on people by following them and eavesdropping becomes a challenge when you throw in a ticking clock. Events occur at specific times and may be missed if you arrive too early or too late. If you enter a room that is occupied, you begin to burn and must run for your life. So, you can spy on others by hiding in the room before they enter or by peeking through a keyhole while events are taking place.

As each murder is averted, you receive additional powers from masks left behind by those you save. These include abilities such as acute hearing, lock-picking, ghost vision, and a glass-shattering voice. These skills make additional areas of the mansion available for exploration and they provide access to sights and sounds that the naked eye (or ear) would miss.

Late in the game, I had collected 49 out of 52 cards and had gathered 7 out of 9 invitations. I had a choice…continue towards what appeared to be the endgame or restart my day and find the missing items. I chose the latter and was determined not to leave The Sexy Brutale with less than 100%. Many hours later, I had the elusive cards and invitations in hand. I used them and triggered a game ending that was different than what I was expecting. YIKES!

I was relieved to find that the developers had planned for this. When I restarted the game, my position had been saved so that I could return to my original path and proceed to the alternate (and more complicated) game ending.

Why the Brutale is SO Sexy  
 

I play a lot of games and The Sexy Brutale is one-of-a-kind. It uses a different side of your brain and requires serious focus. No sitting back, waiting for cutscenes to finish or dialog to complete. Clues are everywhere for the gamer who is paying attention and you need to watch characters closely and read all dialog so that you don’t miss something important. It requires situational assessment, visualization, time management, and planning…skills not used in most point-and-click adventures. Besides the fact that the game is very pleasing to the eye and ear, my brain was fully engaged from the opening scene. Best of all, if your plan does not work or you miss something along the way, you can restart the day with a single keystroke and try again.

The other factor that makes The Sexy Brutale a truly “top shelf” game is that Tequila Works and Cavalier Games did an exceptional job on the implementation. The interface is easy to learn and you are always provided with key assignment reminders. In the image shown below, either a left mouse-click or the “Z” key can be used to interact with the clock.

TheSexyBrutaleInTxtImg4

Initially, the navigation is a bit counter-intuitive for the point-and-click adventurer playing with a keyboard and mouse.  We’ve been trained to left click on a scene to move a character to a point of interest. The Sexy Brutale uses the right-click to move and the left-click to act. Once I made this mental shift, the game was effortless.

Although there is no explicit save function, the game works brilliantly without it. Your progress is saved at all the right times and when you exit, the day restarts. Since the day is fairly short (in game time), this is never an issue. Once the first murder is prevented, you get the ability to choose your starting location for each new day – a feature that is very convenient when you are exploring the outer edges of the mansion.

Finally, the developers provide easy access to everything needed to play. The Map, Brochure, and Progress screens are a huge help and I found myself perusing them regularly. Since time stops while you are in these screens, there is no penalty for taking full advantage of these tools.

Unless you are an action-junkie who requires a weapon to enjoy a game, you need to put The Sexy Brutale on your play list.  It has everything a gamer could want…an engaging story with an unexpected ending, easy game mechanics, challenging gameplay, great graphics and wonderful background music. In a moment of pure serendipity, I went out looking for a game like RIME and, instead, found an unexpected treasure.

Grade: A+
 
A delightfully different style of adventure with a good story with a serious twist in the end
+ Will require conceptual thinking, but detective work has never been so fun
Detailed “top-down” graphics and original music combine to create an immersive world to enjoy
 
- Those wanting to escape into an adventure that entertains rather than challenges may want to look elsewhere

 

 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

System Requirements

MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7 64-bit
Processor: Intel 
i5-3450 @ 3.1 GHz (4 CPUs)
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia Geforce GTX 660
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 3 GB available space
Sound Card:  Realtek High-Definition On-Board Audio
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